By Bronya Lipski
Late in 2017, EJA found out the Victorian EPA was conducting a review of the licences for the coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley.
There’s nothing controversial about that. The EPA is conducting broader reviews of many of the licences it issues, including for the power stations. It can also conduct periodic reviews into the licences it grants to all operators that pollute the environment.
The controversial part was the EPA’s decision not to consult with the community for these reviews.
The EPA isn’t compelled to seek the community’s views, but considering that the Latrobe Valley community bears the pollution burden of the power industry on behalf of Victoria – and that greenhouse gas emissions affect everyone – we thought the decision not to listen to the people’s perspective was unacceptable.
After we repeatedly expressed our views on this the EPA agreed to open up the review to a partial consultation where select groups are invited to make submissions on what the licences should contain.
EJA is engaged in this process but we don’t think it’s good enough, so we have set up a mechanism for community members to have their say.
The EPA has identified some issues that people may like to raise in the licence review. These issues include the public release of emissions data in real time; continuous stack monitoring; and a mandated emissions reduction program to reduce toxic pollution.
But there are other issues too. People we have spoken to are also worried about:
- groundwater contamination from inadequately constructed, managed and monitored ash ponds
- there being no bond or financial assurance to cover the decommissioning of power stations
- the fact that the EPA has the ability to regulate greenhouse gas pollution, but doesn’t do it
- water monitoring data not being easily available and not conducted in real time
- poor communication with communities about land and groundwater contamination
- the lack of a strict polluter-pays mechanism, such as a load-based licencing scheme.
We believe the EPA licencing process is one of the best ways to make sure the health of the Latrobe Valley community is protected from toxic pollution in the air, land and water.
The EPA says it is a world-class regulator of waste and pollution. If it is, it should use this review to bring Victoria’s power station licences into line with the rest of the world.