Power station pollution control licence renewed

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has renewed the five-year licence without significant change to pollution controls at Delta Electricity’s Vales Point Power Station at Mannering Park.
The licence renewal comes soon after the NSW EPA ordered Delta Electricity to clean up a huge part of the plant’s ash dam after asbestos was found in building waste fill.
Mannering Park Progress Association secretary Sue Wynn said: “This is so disappointing for our communities and the whole of NSW because the fine particles and pollution doesn’t just stay over us. If we and Sydney want more poor air quality days, this government has just delivered it,”
The review covered three of the five coal-fired power stations in NSW – Vales Point, Origin’s Eraring power station and Energy Australia’s Lithgow plant.
EPA reviews concluded that it was not warranted to impose a requirement to significantly upgrade those power stations.
It said that air pollution standards here were similar elsewhere in Australia and that air pollution was low by world standards.
However, the Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) says that currently, all three power stations do not have pollution controls fitted that are standard in other countries such as Europe, the US and China, to limit toxic pollutants by more than 85 percent.
EJA director of advocacy and research Nicola Rivers said the EPA had effectively given those coal-fired power stations a licence to harm our communities.
“There are pollution control measures available now that could save lives and safeguard the health of affected communities, yet the EPA has baulked on its responsibility to make these coal-fired power stations install them,” she said.
“With a state election coming up in March, we’re calling on the (NSW Liberal government) and the (Labor Opposition Leader) Michael Daley to commit to clean up this mess before more people suffer from the serious health impacts of toxic coal pollution.”
State Member for Swansea Yasmin Cately has previously made a submission to the Minister on the Vales Point Power Station licence renewal.
“Any review of the existing licences are an opportunity for the EPA to ensure residents in Mannering Park and surrounding suburbs are not adversely affected by pollution from the power station,” she said.
“A NSW Labor Government will review licences with the view to moving towards world’s best practices.”
EJA claims coal-fired stations are the state’s biggest source of toxic air pollutants and an independent US pollution control expert, Dr Ron Sahu, who made submissions on all three licences, identified a range of options for overdue pollution control and observed that these controls were mandatory in most countries.
Submissions to the EPA reviews were made by the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, the Climate and Health Alliance, Doctors for the Environment Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and Central Coast Council.
Dr Ben Ewald, Newcastle GP and member of Doctors for the Environment, said the decision makers in the EPA were ignoring compelling health reasons to clean up power station air pollution.
“Modern pollution controls are required on vehicles, so why not power stations,” he said.
Dr Ewald is the author of the recently released report called The Health Burden of Coal-fired Power in NSW.
EJA criticised the consultation process, claiming the EPA minimised community involvement in the review process by not notifying polluted communities or public interest organisations – concluding the review over Christmas, earlier than expected – and refusing to allow an extension of time for submissions.
“The EPA failed to conduct a proper public consultation – our organisation ran community consultations, convened six public meetings throughout the state ….several thousand people made submissions expressing overwhelming support for the power stations to install emission controls to reduce pollution.
“In our view, the EPA has mismanaged this process and fallen short of their legal duty to protect NSW residents and the environment from pollution.
“We believe there is a compelling case to review the pollution licences for all five coal-fired power stations in NSW and to demand that they install best practice pollution controls.”

SOURCE: Media Release Jan 30
Environmental Justice Australia, Doctors for the Environment Australia and Nature Conservation Council.
Media Statement Feb 4
Swansea MP Yasmin Cately
Sue Murray, Journalist

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