Media release

Power stations routinely under-reporting toxic pollution

May 14, 2017


An investigation by Environmental Justice Australia has revealed alarming errors and under-reporting of toxic pollution from the five large coal-fired power stations in New South Wales.

EJA’s investigation has prompted a state-wide probe by the Environment Protection Agency into whether power stations are under-reporting their toxic emissions.

The Mt Piper, Eraring and Vales Point power stations reported that fine particle emissions had dropped 92%, 60% and 37% respectively in just one year, despite generating more electricity.

None of these power stations have installed the kind of emissions controls that would achieve this. None of them monitor their emissions 24/7. They all self-report their pollution data.

“These power stations appear to be dramatically under-reporting their toxic emissions,” said Environmental Justice Australia researcher Dr James Whelan.

“Without an accurate picture of the toxic pollution emitted by power stations, communities nearby don’t know what they’re breathing.

“Power generators and environmental regulators can’t control pollution that is not reported.

“The companies are getting away with this because we do not have independent continuous monitoring of emissions from smoke stacks and the companies self-report their pollution data.

“The National Pollutant Inventory provides the best available data on toxic emissions from power stations and other facilities, but it’s of limited value if polluters provide inaccurate reports.

“There is no way Mount Piper and Vales Point emitted only 10,000 and 12,000 kilograms of fine particle pollution in the last year, just one-seventeenth as much as the state’s other power stations.

“Those reports are likely to have under-estimated actual emission by at least 80%.

“The solution to this problem is independent, continuous stack monitoring at all power stations.”

NSW power stations are not required to monitor stack emissions continuously. They estimate emissions on the basis of monitoring conducted only quarterly.

Coal-fired power stations are a leading source of fine particle pollution (PM2.5) which is responsible for the premature deaths of more than 3000 Australians each year.

Australia has one of the world’s oldest, dirtiest and least efficient fleets of power stations. The Vales Point and Liddell power stations are scheduled to close within five years, but both could shut sooner.

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