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Coal-fired power station’s future under a toxic cloud as NSW EPA finds it has been operating illegally

The NSW Environment Protection Authority today gave Vales Point coal-fired power station on Lake Macquarie two years to come into compliance with the state’s clean air laws, after it found the power station's previous rolling exemption to the laws was illegal. 

“This power station has been operating illegally for over a year, causing childhood asthma and premature deaths in the community by emitting too much air pollution,” said Nature Conservation CEO Jacqui Mumford. 

“We’re hopeful that in two years, people across NSW will be breathing cleaner, healthier air,” she said 

Environmental Justice Australia lawyers, representing the Nature Conservation Council and Australian Conservation Foundation, notified the EPA on February 21 this year its decision to approve Delta’s application for a pollution exemption at Vales Point Power Station was illegal because Delta had failed to meet the deadline to submit its application. The EPA today acted on that notification, by declaring the previous licence conditions invalid, and issuing a new exemption for only two years.[1,2] 

“Air pollution released by coal-fired power stations is responsible for 477 premature deaths in the Sydney region every year.  

“Vales Point coal-fired power station must now reduce its toxic Nitrogen Oxide pollution, or close and let cleaner sources of generation take over.   

“So far this year, Vales Point power station has broken clean air laws almost every month. 

Table 1: Maximum reported Nitrogen Oxide pollution from Vales Point environmental reports. Values exceeding the Clean Air Regulation limit of 800 mg/m3 are highlighted in bold. 

Month 

Boiler 5 maximum NOx (mg/m3) 

Boiler 6 maximum NOx (mg/m3) 

September 2022 

874 

837 

August 2022 

822 

821 

July 2022 

794 

836 

June 2022 

828 

876 

May 2022 

766 

820 

April 2022 

771 

789 

March 2022 

833 

912 

Feb 2022 

869 

849 

Jan 2022 

814 

792 

 

“If Delta Electricity is unwilling or unable to comply with the law, this will be a nail in the coffin for the Vales Point power station. 

“Unlike previous exemptions, this one cannot be extended beyond October 2027. So if Delta can’t comply, it will have to close in 2027 at the latest. 

“Today’s decision is a reminder that switching from coal-fired power to clean sources of energy benefits not just the climate, but also our health.  

“The task now is to ensure that the Central West renewable energy zone and the Hunter Transmission Project are complete in time to provide clean power to the Central Coast and Sydney when Vales Point closes.” 

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