The NSW Nature Conservation Council has launched legal action challenging the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) renewal of pollution licences for Vales Point, Eraring and Mt Piper coal-fired power stations.
Council CEO, Kate Smolski, said: “We are being represented by lawyers, Environmental Justice Australia, in this legal action to protect communities and the environment in the Hunter, Central Coast and Lithgow from toxic pollution from coal-fired power stations and to make the EPA act lawfully.
“Coal-fired power stations are among the most toxic industrial facilities in the state, yet the EPA allows NSW power stations to emit air pollution at levels that would not be allowed in the United States.
In February this year, the EPA renewed Delta Electricity’s five-year licence without significant change to pollution controls at the Vales Point Power Station at Mannering Park.
EPA reviews at that time concluded it was not warranted to impose significant upgrades to pollution controls at any of the power stations which are now the subject of the Conservation Council’s legal challenge.
Smolski said that when renewing pollution licences, the EPA was legally required to consider measures available to prevent or control pollution, protect the environment and honour the principles of ecologically sustainable development under Section 45 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act.
“The EPA appears to have failed to meet this requirement because it did not strengthen emissions standards or require the use of harm reduction technologies used in other countries,” she said.
The Conservation Council is seeking a judicial review of the EPA’s renewal of the pollution licences, that is, it will seek to establish that the EPA’s renewal of the pollution licences was not done in accordance with the requirements of the Act.
Smolski said the NSW Government was letting these coal fired power stations to emit toxins at levels that would not be allowed in the United States and people in NSW deserved better.
She said Vales Point, Eraring and Mt Piper power stations emitted 160,000 tonnes of toxic air pollution every year, including heavy metals (lead, arsenic, mercury), sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particles (PM2.5s and PM10s).
Doctors for the Environment Australia spokesman, Dr Ben Ewald, said pollution from coal fired power stations in NSW lead to large health burdens.
“Every year that coal fired power stations keep polluting, there are 279 premature deaths, 361 people develop diabetes, and 233 babies are born underweight,” he said.
Smolski said the NSW Government estimated in its Consultation Paper, Clean Air for NSW 2016, that air pollution leads to an estimated $6.4b in health costs in the NSW Greater Metropolitan Region.
“This is a cost borne by local communities,” she said.
“If the owners and operators of these coal fired power stations were required to adopt available pollution control measures, sulphur dioxide emissions could be reduced by up to 99 percent.
“It shouldn’t be left to coal companies to decide whether they want to implement this technology, the EPA must require it.”
Media release, Jul 4
NSW Nature Conservation Council
Journalist, Sue Murray