An estimated 650 children on the Central Coast and at Lake Macquarie suffer asthma because of the pollution that comes from coal-fired power stations like Vales Point.
Research by Dr Ben Ewald, epidemiologist and lecturer at the School of Medicine and Public Health, Newcastle University, found nitrogen dioxide emissions from power stations contributed significantly to children suffering this preventable disease.
Vales Point coal-fired power station is not just filthy, it is the most urban power station in NSW, sitting right in the middle of Central Coast suburbs.
Yet in December 2021, the NSW EPA granted billionaire owners Trevor St Baker and Brian Flannery an exemption that allows the station to continue polluting above the limits in NSW Clean Air laws.
The NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) ran a community consultation process for the first time before it made its decision on the Vales Point exemption application. It said that "The EPA has heard the concerns of the community and, based on our assessment and air quality modelling, we have tightened NOx limits from the original application, to significantly reduce the emissions from Vales Point".
Unfortunately the new "tightened" limits still allow the power station to pollute at levels above the NSW limit, four times the European limit and 10 times the Japanese limit.
The Nature Conservation Council has been campaigning with the local community for the EPA to reject the application and require the company to install filters to cut its pollution and reduce the impact on local children.
In 2022, the NSW Government and the EPA will have many opportunities to force the owners of coal power stations to reduce toxic emissions into line with global best practice.
If the EPA and Government ignores this opportunity, it will lock in dangerous emissions which have dire consequences for children on Central Coast and at Lake Macquarie.
For the health of these children, we cannot afford to squander these opportunities to clear the air.