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International experts slam Victoria’s failure to control power station pollution

Three US experts have slammed the Victorian EPA’s approach to the regulation of the Latrobe Valley coal-fired power stations.

Modelling found emissions of sulfur dioxide from Victoria’s power stations were almost four times the level that would be accepted in the US as safe for the community.

Power station pollution controls expert Dr Ron Sahu, air quality modelling expert Dr Andy Gray, and Bruce Buckheit, the former Director of the USEPA Air Enforcement Division, reviewed the regulation of the Victorian power stations on behalf of Environmental Justice Australia. The EPA is currently reviewing Victorian power station regulation.

The experts’ reports show that current regulations don’t protect community health and that Victorian power stations are not keeping pace with pollution controls required in most coal-burning countries.

“Contrary to operators’ claims, the power stations are a significant source of pollution in the Valley and their emissions should be controlled,” said Dr Andy Gray, atmospheric scientist and dispersion modelling expert.

“The modelled emissions for sulfur dioxide from the power stations were almost four times the acceptable levels in the US, and mercury emissions from the power stations appear to be much higher than AGL, Alinta and EnergyAustralia claim.”

“The Latrobe Valley power stations are some of the most poorly controlled coal-fired power stations in the world, including not only power stations in the US and Europe, but also China,” said air quality consultant Dr Ron Sahu.

“Given what we know about the harmful effects of certain air emissions, such as fine particle pollution (PM2.5) which has no threshold below which there is no harm, the goal should always be the lowest possible emissions and impacts,” said Dr Sahu.

AGL expects to operate Loy Yang A for another 30 years – in effect, another full lifetime for the ageing power station – without modern air pollution controls that are essential, and operating at most coal-fired power stations worldwide.

“The Latrobe Valley power stations could easily be fitted with Flue Gas Desulfurisation (FDG), Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), upgraded particulate matter controls and activated carbon injection for mercury control. These technologies are cost effective and feasible,” said Bruce Buckheit, former US EPA Director of Air Enforcement Division.

FGD and SCR reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen and sulfur dioxide by 85% or more.

“Limiting pollution from large coal-fired power plants is the most cost-effective option for controlling pollution from stationary sources – far more cost-effective than attempting to limit pollution from small businesses or individuals,” Mr Buckheit said.

“As the operators have disclosed plans to run these plants far into the future, they should consider installing the best available control technologies.”

The Victorian Government is expected to finalise the power station licence review in coming months.

Interviews

Nicola Rivers, Director of Advocacy and Research, Environmental Justice Australia, 0410 668 755

Further information

Read EJA’s final submission to EPA Victoria review of brown coal power stations licences including summary of the expert reports

Expert reports:

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