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Upper House committee calls for stricter air quality standards for coal-fired power stations

A NSW Parliamentary committee today called for tighter air-quality controls on coal-fired power stations to improve public health. 

Observing the NSW standards had not been revised for 25 years, the Legislative Council Planning and Environment Committee reviewing the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Clean Air) Bill 2021 [1] found the state’s coal-fired power stations were: 

lagging behind their overseas counterparts in reducing their harmful health impacts due to comparatively relaxed regulation that has failed to drive the upgrading and installation of pollution control technology.  

The committee, which was reviewing the Clean Air Bill 2021supports the Bill’s stricter thresholds for concentrations of solid particles, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides and mercury because they will reduce health impacts of power station emissions. 

“These findings add considerable weight to community demands to make Vales Point power station abide by existing air quality standards and not be granted another five-year exemption,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.   

“The committee makes it clear that the even the standards Vales Point has avoided for more than a decade aren’t good enough to protect human health. 

“The profits of Delta Electricity, which owns Vales Point, have been built on human suffering for decadesEnough is enough.  

“Today’s report is more evidence, if any were needed, that Vales Point’s NO2 emissions must be reduced to at least meet the standards in our clean air laws.” 

1000+ submissions reject exempting Vales Point from pollution standards  

Meanwhile, the Environment Protection Authority has received well over 1000 public submissions demanding Vales Point power station be required to meet NO2 air pollution standards.  

The EPA is considering whether to grant Vales Point another five-year exemption from clean air standards.  

When public submissions closed last Wednesday (November 10)at least 1,072 people signed the Nature Conservation Council submission.  Many other people and organisations have made submissions, including Central Coast community group Future Sooner.  

Vales Point’s current Environmental Protection Licence allows up to 1,500 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. [3] 

REFERENCES  

[1] NSW Legislative Council Planning and Environment Committee (Portfolio Committee No.7) Report 12, Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Clean Air) Bill 2021, November 2021. See page 41.  

Coal-fired power stations in NSW are lagging behind their overseas counterparts in reducing their harmful health impacts due to comparatively relaxed regulation that has failed to drive the upgrading and installation of pollution control technology. The committee considers it timely that this is addressed and considers that the stricter thresholds for concentration of solid particles, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides and mercury in the bill would achieve this objective. The current thresholds have not been revised in 25 years. While the NSW Government recently consulted on its draft NSW Clean Air Strategy 2021–30, this strategy includes no additional measures to address air pollution from coal-fired power stations.  

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