Vales Point Power Station

Uncovering toxic coal pollution

For nearly a year, the NSW EPA refused to publicly release two reports that would reveal options to slash toxic coal pollution from Vales Point Power Station despite community members calling for greater transparency.

On behalf of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia lodged an application with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) seeking two key reports on Nitrogen Oxides and Sulfur Dioxide emissions from Vales Point.

The reports explore the feasibility of installing best-practice pollution reduction technologies at the Vales Point Power Station, similar to those required in the European Union, China and the United States.

Despite public backlash, the NSW EPA granted Delta Electricity an exemption from pollution limits until October 2024. As part of that decision, the EPA required Delta to produce the two reports.

Transparency at stake

The NSW EPA refused requests to release the reports since March 2023, and NCC has exhausted all other options in attempts to get the reports – including by applying to the NSW Information Commissioner.

Appallingly, the EPA justified its failure to release the reports by saying it would result in ‘public scrutiny and media pressure,’ which it claims would ‘interfere’ with its ability to make an independent decision on the regulation of toxic pollution from Vales Point.

The NSW Information Commissioner found the decision not to release the documents’ ‘ is not justified’ - but the EPA has refused to review its decision until Friday 22 December.

In response, the Nature Conservation Council was forced to challenge the EPA decision in NCAT to ensure transparency for the community and the public release of information.

"It is in the public interest for reports like these to be released. It’s concerning that the EPA claim that public scrutiny and media attention would affect the integrity of their decision making.

This is precisely why communities have called for greater transparency and accountability from both the coal industry and the EPA as part of the current review into power station licenses."

Environmental Justice Australia Lawyer Jocelyn McGarity

The health impacts of coal pollution

Nitrogen dioxide is strongly associated with childhood asthma and impaired lung development, while sulfur dioxide pollution can cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, wheezing and lung damage.

An estimated 650 children on the Central Coast and at Lake Macquarie have asthma because of pollution that comes from coal-fired power stations like Vales Point. Read more about protecting people from coal pollution.

“This power station is pumping out pollution that makes people sick. It's ridiculous that Vales Point is the only power station in the state that is exempt from NSW clean air laws."

NCC Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Mumford
EJA Lawyer Jocelyn McGarity and Senior Lawyer Ally McAlpine at Vales Point
EJA Lawyer Jocelyn McGarity and Senior Lawyer Ally McAlpine at Vales Point

"Vales Point wants to stay open until 2033 which we know will cause more cases of childhood asthma and premature deaths. Given this, Delta Electricity should be required to upgrade the power station to best-practice pollution controls, which could reduce Nitrogen Oxide emissions by over 90 per cent."

Future Sooner spokesperson, Gary Blaschke of Lake Munmorah