Did you know Victoria’s three coal-fired power stations emit such high levels of toxic pollution that if they were in the United States they would need to install pollution controls or be closed down?

We asked Dr Ranajit (Ron) Sahu, an air quality expert with extensive experience in the design of pollution control equipment for coal-fired power stations in the US, to analyse the emissions from Victoria’s coal-fired power stations to include in our submission to the Victorian EPA’s review of the power station licences.

Among other revelations Dr Sahu’s analysis found:

  • Mercury emissions from Victoria’s coal-fired power stations are likely to be significantly higher than what is being reported to the National Pollutants Inventory – and around five times higher than what would be permitted in the US
  • Toxic emissions – sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon dioxide (CO2) and mercury – from Victoria’s power stations can and should be continuously and automatically monitored, as they are in the US
  • There are no technological barriers to installing pollution control systems at the three Victorian power stations – controls such as flue gas desulfurisation to reduce sulfur and selective catalytic reduction to control NOx could reduce their toxic emissions by as much as 90%.

Mercury is nasty stuff. A December 2016 statement by the Australian Government says mercury “can cause a range of adverse health impacts which include; cognitive impairment (mild mental retardation), permanent damage to the central nervous system, kidney and heart disease, infertility, and respiratory, digestive and immune problems. It is strongly advised that pregnant women, infants, and children in particular avoid exposure.”

For a number of months the EPA has been quietly conducting a review of the licenses of the three big coal-fired power stations in Victoria – AGL’s Loy Yang A, Alinta’s Loy Yang B and EnergyAustralia’s Yallourn plants – liaising directly with the power station operators.

Some stakeholders (including EJA) have been invited to participate in a restricted written submission process. EJA’s submission is here.

But so far there has been no way for concerned members of the public to contribute to this process.

On such an important issue that affects all of us, we reckon the people should be able to have their say. After all, we’re the ones who breathe the toxic pollution.

So we’ve set up an easy way for you to email the relevant minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, and the head of the EPA, Nial Finegan, to let them know what changes you think the EPA should make to the power station licences. (Petition period now closed.)

Let’s make our voices heard! We’ll be posting on Facebook and tweeting about this licence review too. We hope you’ll share and like to spread the word.

Nicola, Bronya, James and Josh

EJA’s Coal & Health team