The Lithgow community has very limited access to air pollution monitoring data. Unlike other NSW power station communities, Lithgow has no government air pollution monitoring, so the community relies on the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) for an estimate of the toxic pollution emitted each year from the Mt Piper power station. EJA holds concerns that the NPI may not provide an accurate picture. In the last five NPI reports, EnergyAustralia reported emitting 160,000kg, 210,000kg, 130,000kg, 10,000kg then 59,400kg of fine particle pollution from the Mt Piper power station. Fine particle pollution contributes to the premature deaths of more than 3,000 Australians each year. If EnergyAustralia’s reports were accurate, it would suggest Mt Piper had successfully reduced toxic fine particle pollution by 95% in just three years, only to see emissions increase again by a factor of 6.
In August 2018, members of our legal and research team hit the road to visit three air pollution hot spots on Australia’s east coast. Each of these hot spots — Lithgow, Gladstone and Rockhampton — featured in our Toxic and terminal report last year, which found the regulation of coal-fired power stations is failing Australian communities.
Australia has one of the oldest and least efficient fleets of coal-fired power stations in the world. For local communities, that means exposure to dangerous fine particle pollution, sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, mercury and many other toxic substances. These pollutants contribute to serious health impacts, including asthma, respiratory disease and premature death.
There is no good reason why these communities should bear this burden. We know pollution controls can be fitted to control toxic air pollution from power stations, reducing emissions by as much as 90%. During our time on the road, we met with power station operators, environment protection authorities, and local communities, to discuss options that ensure both energy supply and community health.