This media release was originally published by Environmental Justice Australia here >>
Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority has quietly handed Alinta Energy a licence to pump out even more toxic pollution from its Loy Yang B power station.
“Loy Yang B has been permitted to pump even more toxic sulfur dioxide into the air and add to its already shocking rates of pollution. This returns Alinta’s pollution limit to the same level in place for at least two decades,” Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Chloe Badcock said.
“The EPA had an opportunity to refuse Alinta’s application to prevent more pollution harming community health. Instead, it made a decision which will result in a detrimental effect on health, all while keeping the Latrobe Valley community completely in the dark.”
In March 2021, the EPA made a slight improvement to Alinta’s licence limit for sulfur dioxide which hadn’t been updated for decades, reducing it from 100,000g/min to 91,000g/min. Last week, the EPA approved an application by Alinta seeking it be reverted to the pre-2021 level. The EPA also took it upon itself to set new limits on fine and coarse particle pollution (PM2.5 and PM10) which maintain Alinta’s already dangerous allowance.
“The EPA’s decision was made under the new Environment Protection Act which requires all Victorians, including corporations, to mitigate the risk their operations pose to health and the environment. The community rightly expects the EPA to ensure big polluters proactively minimise the risks their activities have on human health, not hand out a licence to pollute more,” Ms Badcock said.
“It is unconscionable that big polluters like Alinta Energy are not held accountable for pumping out tonnes of dangerous toxic pollution. The EPA are required to take the best available techniques or technologies into account. There are technologies used widely around the world that effectively reduce emissions, typically by over 98 per cent.”
Voices of the Valley President Wendy Farmer said: “The EPA has taken a huge step backwards and evaded any community input. As our environmental watchdog, it’s the EPA’s job to protect community health by reducing pollution and supporting a fast and fair transition to renewables,”
“Our community already suffers disproportionately from health impacts from pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter pumped out of power stations, including asthma and other respiratory problems.”
Environment Victoria Policy and Advocacy Manager Bronya Lipski said: “For a region that, according to the coal industry, is supposed to have the cleanest coal in the world it’s obvious this isn’t true when a power station requests to have its pollution limit increased because of poor coal quality,”
“Evidently the EPA prefers to legally increase the amount of pollution Loy Yang B can emit rather than ensure the power station is minimising its risk of harm to human health and the environment so far as reasonably practicable, which is what they’re required to do.
“How can the EPA tighten, then relax, Loy Yang B’s licence limit for sulfur dioxide which we know can and does contribute to adverse health impacts in the Latrobe Valley?
“The EPA has a statutory mandate to protect human health and the environment by reducing the harmful effects of pollution and waste and exercise its powers and duties from that mandate. I am at a complete loss as to how this objective has been achieved in its decision to increase toxic air pollutants at Loy Yang B.
“Thank goodness the re-elected Labor government will introduce new renewable energy targets to get us off coal and onto clean energy which is so much safer for health and the environment.”
The decision comes as EJA’s client, Environment Victoria, is awaiting judgement in a landmark case against the EPA and Alinta, AGL and Energy Australia. The case is the first test of Victoria’s key climate change legislation, the Climate Change Act (2017), and the first to challenge the regulation of air pollution, including sulfur dioxide and particle pollution from Victoria’s coal-burning power stations.
For further comment please contact Kathryn Lewis, Media advisor at Environmental Justice Australia