The NSW government is allowing aging coal power plants to continue to pump out high levels of toxic pollution, leading environment groups say.
It’s absurd that toxic coal is above the law, while wind and solar farms are forced to meet the strictest environmental standards.
Vales Point Power Station, operated by Delta Electricity, has a two-year exemption from NOx emissions limits in NSW’s clean air laws until October 2024.
Now Vales Point Power station may be extended until 2033, Environmental Justice Australia and the Nature Conservation Council (NCC) are urging the NSW Environment Protection Authority to refuse its operator another exemption and require it to install proven air pollution reduction technology used around the world.
NCC Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Mumford said modelling released today by the Climate Energy Finance think tank shows that there are more than enough proposed renewable energy projects in the investor pipeline to exceed the energy output of both Eraring and Vales Point Coal Power Stations.
The Lights Will Stay On report found NSW has over 18GW of wind projects and 10GW of solar project proposals in train. This greatly exceeds the 1,32GW output of Vales Point and 2.88GW output of Eraring coal fired power plants.
“All we’re asking is for the same standards to be applied to renewable energy as coal,” Ms Mumford said. “Any move to extend the exemption from air-quality regulations – designed to protect the community – amounts to preferential treatment of coal fired power stations over renewable energy.”
“It’s absurd that the NSW government is continuing to give special treatment to these polluting old dinosaurs while putting hurdles in the way of renewables. We’re asking for regulators to put serious limits on toxic air pollution from coal,” Mumford also said.
EJA Lawyer Jocelyn McGarity said legislated air pollution limits are meant to control how much toxic pollution companies can legally pump into the air we breathe.
“While Delta enjoys its free pass to pollute, kids with asthma, premature babies, and people with emphysema suffer the consequences,” Ms McGarity said.
“If Delta wants to operate for the next 10 years, it should be made to meet laws designed to better protect community health – that means, no more special treatment or exemptions.”
“The decision to give Delta an exemption should never have been made in the first place – but now that Delta wants to keep Vales Point open until 2033, it’s critical the exemption not be renewed.”
“This announcement raises an important question – will Delta finally pay for pollution controls or are they banking on their current exemption being extended or, even some other form of government support?”
Background on the Vales Point NoX exemption:
NSW EPA granted Delta a two-year exemption from NOx emissions limits in NSW’s clean air laws from October 2022 to October 2024.
Prior to this, Vales Point Power Station was already exempted from legal air pollution limits for almost a decade, allowing it to emit toxic nitrogen oxide pollution at almost twice the rate otherwise permitted under NSW laws for a power station of its age.
Each year in Australia, toxic air pollution from coal-burning power stations kills 800 people and worsens conditions such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. Nitrogen dioxide is strongly associated with childhood asthma and impaired lung development.