Media Release: Licenced To Pollute: New Power Station Licences Sentence The Public To Years Of Toxic Air Pollution

The Greens have condemned the EPA’s recently released new power station licences for the four remaining coal-fired power stations in NSW, which will continue to allow power station operators to get away with murder with their toxic emissions.

The new licence conditions, the first for five years, require only a marginal reduction in mercury and cadmium levels, while leaving the levels for highly dangerous nitrous oxide and nitrous dioxide, and sulphur dioxide, amongst other harmful chemicals, untouched.

Nitrogen oxides have numerous impacts on human health, including on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and they exacerbate symptoms of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and other respiratory diseases. Currently allowable levels of Nitrogen oxides from these power stations are between 1100 and 1500 milligrams per cubic metre, 5-7.5 times higher than permissible levels in the European Union and China.

Sulphur dioxide is emitted during the burning of fossil fuels, especially coal. Exposure to sulphur dioxide gas leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, bronchitis, stroke, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Current allowable emissions for sulphur dioxide, 1716 milligrams per cubic metre, are more than four times higher than allowable levels in the European Union and China.

Peer-reviewed epidemiological research has demonstrated a causal link between negative health outcomes and air pollution from coal fired power stations. In 2018, it was shown that coal fired power stations in NSW each year cause 279 premature deaths, 233 babies born at low birthweight, and 361 new cases of diabetes.


Quotes attributable to Abigail Boyd, Greens NSW MP and spokesperson for Energy, and spokesperson for the Hunter, Newcastle and Central Coast:

“People who live within 50kms of coal-fired power stations face a risk of premature death as much as three to four times that of people living further away, with some of these toxic emissions travelling over 200kms, across Sydney and across New South Wales.

“For those holding their breath, hoping a new Labor government may finally stand up to the toxic fossil fuel industry and protect the health and wellbeing of the communities surrounding coal-fired power stations, this week’s announcement shows that hope was misplaced.

“Labor came to the election promising to ‘ensure that air quality standards comply with the world’s best practice’. With today’s announcement leaving us lagging so far behind the rest of the world, they have broken that promise and left the community to pay the price. 

“Communities around the Central Coast, Lake Macquarie and the Hunter have for years been calling on the NSW government to tighten pollution restrictions on these stations to protect their health and today the Labor government has thumbed their nose at them.

“Coal-reliant communities are regularly used as a convenient prop and excuse for the major parties to continue pandering to fossil fuel corporate interests - but when it comes to standing up for the health and safety of these workers and communities, the NSW Labor party are nowhere to be seen.

“These weak licence conditions, and the resulting impacts on health and environment, make the government’s decision to extend the life of Eraring even more shameful and shortsighted.

“The health of communities in the Hunter, Central Coast and the Central Tablelands have been weighed up against the interests of fossil fuel profits and found to be lacking.

“These licence conditions amount to a capitulation. Waving a white flag, they announce to the world that this government has no intention of being better than the last, and can’t be trusted to do the work necessary to protect either human health or the environment.”

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