In April, the Victorian Parliament passed the Covid-19 Omnibus (Emergency measures) Act 2020 (the Covid-19 Act), which saw a halt in the enactment of the Environment Protection Act 2018 which was initially due to come in to force on 1 July.
Toxic fires during Melbourne restrictions
In the last several weeks, toxic fires at industrial waste plants have polluted communities at Altona North, Campbellfield and Thomastown, while rural regions remain exposed to dangerous levels of pollution from coal–fired power stations whose toxic emission limits are far above those allowed in other countries. Air pollution from coal-fired power stations is responsible for tens of thousands of asthma cases and around 800 premature deaths each year in Australia.
“Environmental disasters don’t stop for COVID so the legislation shouldn’t either. We have waited far too long for the new EP Act as generations of Victorians have paid with their health.” – Nicola Rivers, CO-CEO.
By overhauling existing regulation in Victoria, the new EP Act would improve air quality and will protect communities that are currently being exposed to toxic pollution, giving them legal recourse.
Not retreating to safety
Victorians are being told to stay in the safety of their homes as the state works to flatten the second wave of Covid-19, but many residents are not retreating to safety – they are retreating to toxicity due to these toxic fires. Community health should not be put at risk from preventable pollution. Had the EP Act come in to force as initially indicated by the Andrews Government, it could have prevented the recent toxic pollution events in Melbourne.
Instead of protecting polluting industries, the government must stop stalling and prioritise bringing in the new EP Act as matter of urgency to protect community health.