By Andrew Thorpe
NEW DATA from the National Pollutant Inventory shows Gladstone’s fine particle emissions remain at concerningly high levels, according to environmental researchers.
The data relies on self-reporting by pollutant emitters but remains the most comprehensive record of air pollution available.
Sulfur dioxide emissions from Gladstone Power Station increased by 7 per cent from 2015-16 to 2016-17, totalling 24.4 million kg, while the station’s PM2.5 fine particle (coal dust) emissions fell by two per cent to just under 50,000kg.
Fine particle emissions from the Callide A and B power stations in Biloela also increased by 7 per cent to 323,000kg.
The biggest new sources of air pollution in Gladstone were the three LNG plants on Curtis Island, which contributed 6.1 million kg of oxides of nitrogen to the atmosphere – 13 per cent of the city’s total emissions according to analysis by Environmental Justice Australia researcher Dr James Whelan.
Dr Whelan said Gladstone remained a “hotspot” for air pollution, along with Newcastle and the Latrobe Valley, and the figures strengthened his group’s calls for the Federal Government to be given the authority to strictly enforce air quality standards like the EPA has in the United States.
“This is an overburdened air shed,” he said, echoing comments from Gladstone Conservation Council coordinator Anna Hitchcock.
“It’s not your typical environment. If you saw increases (in the United States) like we’ve seen in Gladstone, the EPA would intervene.”
Dr Whelan said Flynn MP Ken O’Dowd’s push for a second coal-fired power station to be built in the city would be the “kiss of death for Gladstone”.
“I’d suggest, with respect, Mr O’Dowd probably believes in fairies at the bottom of the garden,” he said.
“There’s a reason there isn’t a company putting their hand up to construct a new coal-fired power generator in Australia – in fact we’ve had seven closures in the last four years.
“We’d recommend (politicians) focus their energy on transition planning.”
Gladstone Industry Leadership Group chief executive Patrick Hastings said Gladstone’s major industrial companies were focused on working with the community through live data monitoring of air quality and open dialogue about their operations.
“Gladstone does not have an air pollution problem,” he said.
“(Gladstone’s industries) review and refine our operations constantly to ensure that we continuously improve our environmental performance.”
Published by the Gladstone Observer on 4 April 2018