Media Releases | 23rd Sep, 2021

First test of Victorian climate law as environment group sues EPA over coal pollution

Environment Victoria has launched a landmark legal action against the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and three energy companies for failing to limit pollution from coal-burning power stations.

The Supreme Court case will be the first test of Victoria’s key climate legislation, the Climate Change Act 2017. It will also be the first to challenge the regulation of air pollution from Victoria’s coal-burning power stations.

“The Andrews government passed nation-leading climate change legislation in 2017, but Victoria’s environment watchdog chose to ignore it when making a crucial decision about coal power station licences this year,” said Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze.

“We believe the EPA has failed to protect the health of the community and the environment so we’re putting the matter before a judge to decide.”

The EPA’s decision on coal power station licences was finalised in March. Environment Victoria’s court case is a judicial review challenging the legality of the decision and includes the power station owners as defendants.

“The EPA took more than 1200 days to review the licences of three coal power stations and then failed to take any action on the greenhouse gases they emit,” said Mr La Nauze.

“Our case will argue that they failed to properly consider key sections of the Climate Change Act and the Environment Protection Act.

“Coal-burning power stations are by far the biggest cause of climate change in our state, responsible for 40 percent of Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions. They’re also the biggest single source of toxic air pollution, including sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, fine particle pollution and mercury.

“A study in 2020 found that pollution from Victorian coal-burning power stations causes an estimated 205 premature deaths, 259 low birth-weight babies, and 4376 asthma symptoms in children each year.

“But currently the EPA is letting these power stations emit toxic pollution at levels that wouldn’t be allowed in the United States, Europe or China.”

Environment Victoria is being represented by lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia – a leading public interest legal organisation with a track record of holding government and industry to account. The barristers are Ron Merkel QC, Matthew Albert and Rupert Watters.

“It’s vital that our laws are applied as intended – to protect community health and our environment and reflect developing community expectations,” said Environmental Justice Australia’s Principal Lawyer, Nick Witherow.

“If the EPA will not implement the laws that were enacted to protect the air the community breathes and the climate we live in, then it is in the public interest that they are held accountable and their decisions tested in court.

“This case adds to a wave of climate litigation in Australia and around the world, including the recent successful case brought by bushfire survivors that found the NSW EPA failed in its duty to address climate change and must take action to address greenhouse gas emissions.”

Media contact

Greg Foyster, Media and Content Manager, 0410879031,