Victorian communities are demanding the Andrews government combat toxic air pollution and protect people’s health with the release of The People’s Clean Air Action Plan.
Tired of government inaction, particularly toxic pollution from coal-fired power stations, a coalition of community groups, environmental lawyers, health professionals and international regulatory experts came together to take the government’s task of reducing air pollution into their own hands.
The People’s Clean Air Action Plan for Victoria calls for the state government to reduce the biggest sources of air pollution by:
- Increasing air quality monitoring and access to information about air pollution
- Reducing coal-fired power station pollution with best practice control standards
- Reducing vehicle pollution, with a focus on vehicle pollution hotspots
- Phasing out wood-burning heaters
- Legislating health-based ambient air quality standards.
Victoria’s air pollution standards do not adequately protect health and lag significantly behind other regions, including the USA, the EU and China, where most coal-fired power stations are required to install basic pollution controls that cut toxic pollutants by more than 85 percent.
Each year, 2.1 million Australians are exposed to toxic pollution from coal-fired power stations, which cause 800 premature deaths, 15,400 asthma attacks and 850 babies to be born with low birth weight at an economic cost of $2.4 billion.
Victoria’s coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley cause 205 premature deaths, 4,376 asthma attacks and 259 babies to be born with low birth weight.
Bronya Lipski, Lawyer from Environmental Justice Australia who grew up in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley said:
“Environmental Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio has dropped the ball on air pollution. She has been sitting on an opportunity to tighten pollution limits for coal-fired power stations for four years while people in places like the Latrobe Valley have been breathing toxic air.
“Despite numerous pollution breaches by coal-fired power stations and multiple reports outlining the health and economic costs of toxic air pollution, coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley still receive preferential treatment from state and federal governments to pollute our air, profiting at the expense of people’s health.
“I grew up in the Latrobe Valley where generations of my family members worked in the Yallourn and Hazelwood power stations and where we were also exposed to the toxic pollution they pumped out.
“My sister was often so sick she had to be on multiple courses of steroids, antibiotics and asthma medication. I was even taught how to get my sister onto a nebuliser if she had a bad asthma attack and couldn’t breathe.
“We have the ability to reduce toxic pollution in the air we breathe, we just need the Victorian government to do its job and implement the measures needed to reduce toxic emissions to as close to zero as possible.”
“The Victorian community can’t wait any longer while the government drags their feet. Where the government has failed, the people have stepped in. It’s time the Victorian government puts people before polluters and urgently adopts the recommendations in The People’s Clean Air Action Plans.”
Dr Suzanne Deed – Gippsland GP and psychotherapist said:
“There is no safe level of air pollution. Our governments should be doing everything they can to reduce toxic emissions to as close to zero as possible.
“Over the years, I’ve seen many people in Gippsland presenting with serious health issues caused by air pollution from the coal-fired power stations – kids with severe asthma symptoms, adults with lung cancer who have never smoked a cigarette, heart disease, the list goes on.
“It frustrates me that the government could so easily reduce sources of pollution like this that are so detrimental to community health and at a staggering cost to the taxpayer.
Wendy Farmer, President of Voices of the Valley said:
“The Latrobe Valley community bears the brunt of pollution from the state’s coal-fired power stations and the health impacts that come with it. No one’s postcode should determine how clean their air is.
“The government owes it to us to adopt the recommendations in The People’s Clean Air Action Plan to protect our health.”
The coalition of groups who contributed to The People’s Clean Air Action Plan are:
Asthma Australia, Lung Foundation Australia, Doctors for the Environment Australia, Healthy Futures, Environment Victoria, Communities for Clean Air, Maribyrnong Truck Action Group, Voices of the Valley.