On Thursday, the NSW Opposition committed to bringing emission limits for the state’s coal-fired power stations into line with international best practice, and promised to establish air pollution monitoring in Lithgow and on the Central Coast.
Australian power stations are licenced to emit toxic air pollution at concentrations much higher than is allowed in most other countries. Thousands of EJA’s allies and supporters joined us in calling for the NSW EPA to require emission controls when they reviewed the pollution licences for three of the state’s five power stations. But the review was a huge disappointment. The EPA made no changes to licence limits, so there is no obligation for generators to install even readily available pollution controls.
Mr Daley, who may be Premier after the March 23 election, also pledged to complete the air pollution control strategy for NSW. It’s been almost 18 months since Premier Berejikilian announced the development of a state-wide pollution strategy, with no apparent progress.
This is very welcome news, and signals a major difference between the policies of the NSW Coalition and Opposition. NSW Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, has frequently been criticised for her lack of action on air pollution. In addition to the go-slow on a state pollution control strategy, Ms Upton has failed to deliver urgent changes to the NSW Load-Based Licence (‘polluter pays’) scheme and has taken no action to remedy the many times pollution has exceeded national pollution standards. EJA joined Hunter Valley community groups in September, urging the minister to visit the Hunter after 80 pollution alerts were issued in one month. She declined.
This commitment is a result of sustained community campaigning. We’ve worked closely with community groups in Lithgow, the Central Coast and Hunter Valley, with the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Doctors for the Environment and others. With them, we welcome this commitment and urge Premier Berejiklian to match it.