Environmental lawyers and doctors have slammed the NSW environment regulator’s decision to grant Delta Electricity a special exemption from legal air pollution limits for another five years.
The decision on 15 December came despite a NSW parliamentary committee calling for updated and tighter air pollution laws earlier this month, to bring NSW’s archaic controls in line with international and World Health Organization standards and to reduce harmful health impacts.
Vales Point Power Station has already been exempted from legal pollution limits for almost a decade, which allowed it to emit toxic nitrogen oxides at almost twice the rate otherwise permitted under NSW laws.
“The current pollution limits are already lax by global standards, despite this the EPA continues to grant Vales Point an exemption rather than putting the health of all NSW residents first,” Environmental Justice Australia Lawyer, Charley Brumby-Rendell said.
“Delta will continue business as usual as the new licence conditions largely reflect current emissions. The EPA’s decision will do nothing to reduce toxic pollution which harm people’s health.”
Environmental groups have long called for tougher pollution standards and requirements for power stations to install controls, which can cut toxic pollutants by more than 85 per cent. “Technology used widely around the world is proven to significantly reduce the risk of these toxic pollutants and should be used widely in Australia,” Ms Brumby-Rendell said.
“The EPA should require all power station operators to minimise the risk of harm to people and the environment, instead of granting exemptions from existing air pollution laws.”
The decision locks in dangerous emissions which are bad for human health, cause heart attacks and stroke, asthma in children and contribute to hundreds of babies born with low birth weight among many other conditions which lead to hundreds of premature deaths each year.
Newcastle GP, Dr Ben Ewald said: “The licence has been trimmed slightly but current pollution releases will continue at almost the same rate.
“The EPA has squandered this opportunity to improve the health of the surrounding community, especially those children with asthma due to power station pollution.”
Following campaigning by community groups, the EPA were forced to belatedly accept public submissions. The vast majority of more than 1000 submissions made to the EPA opposed Delta’s application and requested the EPA require Delta to install pollution controls.
Media contact: Kathryn Lewis, [email protected]