Coal pollution updates for Victoria

1 April 2021

Between the results of the Victorian EPA’s power station licence review, the announcement of Yallourn’s early closure, and the call for submissions to the health impacts of air pollution inquiry, a lot has been going on in the VIC coal pollution space. Here’s the low down:

Licence review

The results from the Vic EPA’s three-and-a-half-year licence review of the state’s coal-fired power stations unfortunately didn’t result in bringing the power stations in line with international standards. There were, however, some small wins, which could not have happened without sustained community pressure.

What happened:

  • A limit on mercury emissions in a first for Victoria’s coal-fired power stations.
  • An acknowledgement of the health impacts of ‘class three’ substances like dioxins and furans, cadmium and benzene.
  • Power station operators will now have to submit rehabilitation plans for coal ash dumps and update them every 5 years.
  • Continuous air monitoring will be made uniform across all power stations and available to the public.

What didn’t happen:

  • No introduction of substantial pollution reduction measures to bring the power station licences in line with international best practice.
  • No new restrictions on greenhouse gases despite the increasing threat of dangerous climate change.
  • No explicit requirement to install pollution controls that are required in most other countries and can cut toxic pollutants by more than 85 percent.
  • Although the EPA has acknowledged the health impacts of Class 3 substances like dioxins and furans, cadmium and benzene, no steps are required to ensure that these pollutants are reduced. 
  • No acknowledgement of the health impacts or health-based limits on fine particle pollution, sulfur dioxide, mercury and oxides of nitrogen which the power stations emit in the hundreds and millions of kilograms each year.
  • A reliance on data from the National Pollutant Inventory – an inaccurate pollution reporting source self-reported by power stations – to make its decision on mercury licence limits which is inconsistent with world’s best practice.

Read the full review here.

What you can do about this:

  1. Email Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio to demand she step in and implement the People’s Clean Air Action Plan for Victoria
  2. Make a submission to the Parliamentary inquiry into the Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Victoria

Yallourn closure

EnergyAustralia has announced it has struck a deal with the Victorian government to close Yallourn coal-fired power station in 2028, four years ahead of schedule. Announcing a closure date for Yallourn with seven years’ notice and support to transition workers will hopefully alleviate some of the Latrobe Valley community’s anxiety about their future. However, communities suffering the serious health impacts from exposure to the power station’s toxic pollution are still waiting on a plan to protect their health. 

Yallourn coal-fired power station is still not fitted with pollution controls required in most other countries and regions including the European Union, the United States, China and India that reduce toxic pollutants by more than 85 percent.

Take action

You can call on Vic Enviro Minister Lily D’Ambrosio to implement a Clean Air Strategy for Victoria here.

Or, if you want to do something more substantial the Inquiry into the Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Victoria is taking submissions until Friday 23 April. To help with your submission, check out our submission writing workshop with EJA lawyer Bronya Lipski here. You’ll learn submission drafting tips and tricks, and how to clearly articulate your recommendations when preparing your submission.

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