Government doing nothing to protect communities from toxic power plants

Press release - 14 August, 2017
August 15, 2017: A report has found that levels of toxic air pollution emitted by Australian coal fired power plants are so high that many of them would be illegal in the US and Europe.

Released today Environmental Justice Australia’s report Toxic and terminal: How the regulation of coal-fired power stations fails Australian communities [1] found emissions limits in Australia are much more lax than those in the US, EU and China and Mercury limits for some NSW power stations are 666 times higher than the US limits.

“High-polluting coal power plants in Australia are putting communities at risk with the government doing nothing to hold these companies to account,” Greenpeace campaigner Andrew Kelly said.

“These plants are pumping substances that directly cause and contribute to asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and respiratory disease into the air in much higher levels than would be permitted overseas.”

The report also found that new “low emission” coal-fired power stations only marginally reduced toxins produced and that “despite evidence of a failure to comply with pollution licence conditions, no power station in Victoria, NSW or Queensland has been prosecuted for any offence in the past ten years”.

It also uncovered several instances where officials from plants failed to report their emissions, or reported them incorrectly.  

“The Australian government has shown over and over again that it is coal’s best friend,” Kelly said.

“This shows that they are also the enemy of the very communities they are claiming to support with emissions limits rarely monitored or enforced.

“Despite ample evidence emissions standards are being exceeded the government are yet to punish the plants responsible.”

Michelle Coles runs Port Augusta's community cinema with her husband, and has been independently monitoring the air quality with a crowd-funding air monitor since a failure to decommission the plant properly saw “fly ash” cover the town for days.

She said that the report was further demonstration State and Federal governments were failing to protect Australian communities from toxic air pollution from coal-fired power stations but warned communities needed to be protected during plant closures as well.

“Governments are unprepared for power station closures and the huge task of decommissioning and rehabilitation,” Coles said.“Port Augusta is an example of what happens if you fail to plan a coal-fired power station closure properly.

“The coal dust from the power station really affected our lives. We always had dust when the power station was operating. But over new years’, it was horrific. We had no information. People were coughing, had burning throats and itchy eyes. We were afraid to go outside. I'm talking about our families, our community.”



For interviews contact:

Simon Black

Greenpeace Senior Media Campaigner

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