By Lisa Martin, AAP
State and territory government are accused of “being out to lunch” when it comes to fighting for clean air after many of Australia’s largest polluters reported emissions hikes.
Environmental Justice Australia researcher James Whelan has given a scathing assessment of state regulators after crunching numbers from the annual National Pollutant Inventory.
“This year’s (data) confirms the urgent need for stronger national air pollution laws and a strong national Environmental Protection Authority to control toxic air pollution,” he said.
The inventory keeps track of 93 toxic substances in emissions that have health and environmental effects.
Toxic emissions from the coal industry’s mines, power stations and export terminals dominated the report.
- Electricity generation accounted for 8.3 million kilograms of atmospheric particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres known as PM2.5.
- Australian power stations emitted 360 million kilograms of oxides of nitrogen and 480 million kilograms of sulfur dioxide.
- The Bayswater coal-fired power station in NSW has reported emitting 294,000 kilograms of PM2.5 – a 69 per cent increase on the previous year.
- Queensland’s most polluting coal-fired power station Tarong power station reported an increase in fine particle emissions of 16 per cent in the last year – up 71 per cent in the last five years.
- Emissions of mercury and compounds from the Victoria’s Latrobe Valley power stations increased by 37 per cent to more than 2000 kilograms in just one year. Loy Yang B mercury emissions up were 116 per cent and Yallourn up 53 per cent.
Dr Whelan claims Victoria’s Yallourn power station appears to be inaccurately reporting its toxic emissions.
He said operators of Yallourn have reported fine particle emissions more than 50 per cent lower than any year in the preceding decade.
“Yallourn’s claim that fine particle emissions have dropped by 50 per cent is not credible, as the power station has not installed any new equipment to control pollution, despite such equipment being readily available,” Dr Whelan said.
He said Australians should be celebrating the health benefits of shutting down coal-fired power stations.
In the past four years seven large coal fired power stations have retired which has cut fine particle pollution by 966,000kg, sulfur dioxide emissions by 87 million kg and oxides of nitrogen by 31 million kg each year.
Exposure to fine particles can lead to allergies, cancer, aggravated asthma and premature death, while sulphur can induce headaches and anxiety. Oxides of nitrogen can irritate eyes, nose, throat and lungs and can lead to coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness and nausea.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce are among government backbenchers pushing for the Turnbull government to intervene to stop the slated 2022 closure of the Liddell power station in the NSW Hunter Valley.
“These are opportunist and maverick politicians who are way out of touch with industry realities … coal just doesn’t stack up,” Dr Whelan said.
The National Pollutant Inventory is an annual report on air pollution in Australia, published by the federal government using information supplied by various industries and compiled by states and territories.
This AAP story was published by the Illawarra Mercury on 3 April 2018