Media Releases | 5th Mar, 2021

EPA fails on climate in coal power station licence review

Victoria’s environmental regulator, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), has taken 1200 days to review the licences of three coal power stations and then failed to take any action on the greenhouse gases they emit.

The EPA’s review of brown coal licences was released this morning. It includes new limits on mercury pollution and modest tightening of limits for other pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and PM2.5, but doesn’t impose any limits on the carbon dioxide pollution that causes climate change.

“Today’s outcome makes a mockery of the Andrews government’s efforts over the past five years to modernise the EPA and to strengthen our climate laws. If this is the kind of decision we get in 2021, then Victoria’s climate laws simply aren’t up to the job and neither is our environmental regulator,” said Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze.

“The Andrews government wants the EPA to be a modern environmental regulator, but this decision shows the EPA is utterly missing in action on the biggest environmental challenge of all.”

“The three coal power stations in the Latrobe Valley are responsible for more than 40 percent of Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA is required by law to consider climate change when reviewing licences, but has decided not to place pollution limits on the biggest source.”

“The EPA claims that by limiting other toxic pollutants, they are capping the amount of coal that can be burned at current levels, indirectly stopping greenhouse gases from increasing. But preventing emissions from increasing is very different from actually reducing emissions, and emissions need to come down urgently.”

“The EPA’s excuse is they don’t have a clear regulatory framework for imposing limits on carbon dioxide pollution and they need more direction from government. Meanwhile the Andrews government has said the EPA is an independent regulator and has all the powers it needs.”

“The time for passing the buck has to end. The Andrews government urgently needs a plan to deal with the greenhouse gases from these power stations.”

In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, the licence review considered the vast quantities of toxic pollution produced by the coal power stations.

“Some positive news for the Latrobe Valley is that power station owners are now required to provide rehabilitation plans for coal ash dumps and clean up groundwater,” said Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze.

“Continuous air monitoring requirements will now be uniform across all power stations and the data publicly available, which is also a welcome step.”

However, even after three years, the licence review only made modest tweaks to the pollution limits.

“When questioned by Environment Victoria, the EPA could not say if the revised air pollution limits will actually reduce toxic air pollution which, according to epidemiological studies, kills hundreds of people every year.”

“There is no direct requirement for basic pollution controls that are required in most other regions including the US, the EU, China and India. These technologies could reduce toxic pollutants by more than 85 percent and save lives.”

“By failing on climate and making only modest improvements on toxic pollution, the EPA’s licence review decision continues to put the community and environment at risk. This is deeply disappointing to the Victorian community and we will be considering our legal options.”

Media contacts

Greg Foyster, Environment Victoria Media and Content Manager, 0410879031