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Coal power should not be above the law on clean air

Vales Point power station, one of the state’s biggest polluters, must not be granted another five-year exemption from the Clean Air Regulation, according to the Nature Conservation Council.

“Vales Point is a massively polluting business that makes mega profits for its billionaire owner because the NSW Government and the EPA keeps letting it off the hook,” Nature Conservation Council Acting CEO Jacqui Mumford said.

“This power station is not only fueling climate change, it is harming the health of hundreds of kids on the Central Coast. 

“Vales Point emits nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution at twice the rate of other coal power stations because it hasn’t invested in even the most basic equipment that can reduce this pollution.

“The free ride has to end.”

The owner of Vales Point,  Delta Electricity, applied to the EPA for another five year exemption from the state’s clean air laws on December 23. The EPA is now considering the application.

Vales Point’s current Environmental Protection Licence allows up to 1500 milligrams of nitrogen dioxide to be emitted per cubic metre of exhaust, while under the NSW Clean Air Regulation, polluting facilities of the same age must emit around half as much pollution, at 800 milligrams per cubic metre. [1]

Nitrogen dioxide from coal power stations causes respiratory diseases and is responsible for hundreds of kids in the local area developing asthma.

“Coal power stations should not be above the law when it comes to polluting our air,” Ms Mumford said. 

“It’s time Vales and all power stations in NSW stopped poisoning the air we breathe and protected the health of people who live around Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast.

“For 10 years, the Vales Point coal power station has been exempted from the Clean Air Regulation. Enough is enough. We call on the EPA to reject this latest application.

“Installing low-NOx burners would halve the nitrogen dioxide pollution that the plant releases into the community, at a cost which is just a fraction of its annual profit.

“The EPA has not yet committed to holding public consultations on this application, so if locals want to see cleaner air in their community, we encourage them to get in touch with the EPA to ask them to reject  this application.”

BACKGROUND 

  • The Federal Government has earmarked a $8.7 million subsidy for repairs to Vales Point power station, which is owned by coal baron Trevor St Baker. 
  • The power station is expected to close by 2029, but its owner has stated that it would run the plant as long as possible. ASIC filings show that last year the power station made a before tax profit of $141 million. [2]
  • An engineering report commissioned by the power station found that fitting low-NOx burners to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions would cost about $33 million. [3]
  • Mr St Baker has a record of gaining from government decisions. He bought Vales Point power station from the NSW Government for $1 million in 2015 and made $113 million in profit on the deal in 2017-18. [4]  
  • Mr St Baker is a regular political donor, and former National Party candidate. 

REFERENCES

[1] Schedule 3, p83, Protection of the Environment (Clean Air) Regulation 2002

[2]  Vales Point power station’s billionaire beggars receive $62 million dividend,  1-12-20, NCC Media release

[3] Jacobs report, GIPA EPA431, table ES-2, page 10

 [4] The man who bought Vales Point power station from the NSW Government for a song has new plans for the site, 23-1-19, Newcastle Herald 

 

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