Latrobe Valley

Big wins for community power

It's been a big few months for community advocacy in the Latrobe Valley.

In May, EJA lawyers and campaigners from Environment Victoria submitted a joint petition to Hazelwood’s operator, Engie, calling on the company to get rehab right at the former coal mine.

More than a thousand people from the Latrobe Valley and across the state of Victoria signed their name, in a massive show of support for proper rehabilitation, thoroughly investigating all environmental impacts of rehab plans, and making sure the community is involved with transparency every step of the way.

EJA lawyers Isabella and Ally, and Environment Victoria campaigner Joy, delivering the petition to Engie.

It comes as the EPA has approved AGL Loy Yang’s revised plans to install best practice pollution controls for its coal ash dump expansion at Loy Yang.

This was only made possible by persistent community pressure; the EPA received countless submissions on AGL’s plans from community members across Victoria last year, raising concerns about health impacts, contamination and leakage, and the capacity of the dump far exceeding AGL Loy Yang’s closure date of 2035.

These are two major wins for people power in the Latrobe Valley.

Local residents, environmental justice lawyers, campaigners and supporters from far across Victoria continue to come together and fight for a healthy future in the Latrobe Valley – because all of us, no matter who we are, or where we live, deserve a safe environment and future free from the burdens of toxic coal pollution.

Head here for the latest on coal mine rehabilitation plans in the Latrobe Valley, otherwise read on for all you need to know about AGL’s plans to expand coal ash dumps at Loy Yang.

AGL's plans to expand coal ash dumps at Loy Yang

Thanks to community advocacy, AGL will install best practice pollution controls as part of its plans to expand its coal ash dumps at Loy Yang. Here’s how we got to this point.

In March 2023, AGL submitted plans to expand its coal ash dumps at Loy Yang – where toxic byproduct from coal-fired power stations is dumped – because existing dumps are nearing capacity.

Loy Yang coal mine. Photo: Emma Bonney-Bramich

We supported community members across Victoria to raise some big concerns about AGL's plans, including:

  • The original plans would have enabled almost another two decades of coal production – even though the Victorian government has set a deadline for the end of coal within 12 years;
  • The liners that AGL proposed to use to line the ash dumps were not thicker and impermeable in accordance with international best practice;
  • There was not enough consideration given to the serious health impacts of coal ash pollution, or the impacts of existing groundwater contamination.

The EPA asked AGL to address the concerns raised by community members in 2023 – and as a result, we scored some massive wins.

Thanks to these submissions, AGL revised its application to include best-practice coal ash dump liners in its plans – which are much more effective at preventing contamination and currently used in the United States.

AGL also included answers to a number of important questions raised by the community, including about the enormous size of the ash dumps, community health impacts, and options for re-using coal ash, rather than leaving it dumped in open, giant pits.

But the EPA still approved Loy Yang for the full capacity sought – and we have concerns about why AGL needs almost another two decades of capacity to dump coal waste.

Loy Yang says it’s to help rehabilitation efforts but we don't know the details. They also say it’s to accommodate coal ash from Loy Yang B. Loy Yang B doesn’t have a closure date until 2047. , despite the Victorian Government’s commitment to phase out coal by 2035 and Loy Yang A pressing ahead with plans to rehabiliate the mine by 2035.

We’re continuing to call on coal mine operators to be transparent about their rehab plans for their Latrobe Valley mines. We are also calling on the EPA to implement these stronger best-practice coal ash management standards across all three coal mines in the Latrobe Valley.