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Time to retire coal-fired power stations, senate told

Australia's largest power station, Eraring, at Lake Macquarie is responsible for spewing tonnes of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere annually, a senate committee will hear. Photo Wikipedia

Australia’s largest power station, Eraring, at Lake Macquarie is responsible for spewing tonnes of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere annually, a senate committee will hear. Photo Wikipedia

The senate’s Standing Committee on Environment and Communications will today hold hearings in Sydney into the benefits of retiring old coal-fired power stations.

The Nature Conservation Council, Environmental Justice Australia and Australian Coal Alliance will be among six groups giving evidence to the committee.

Phase out in 14 years

Nature Conservation Council campaigns director Daisy Barham will tell the committee that coal-fired power generation in NSW can and should be phased out within 14 years.

‘Coal-fired power plants in NSW should be replaced by renewable energy sources and storage technologies by 2030, but it will require strong leadership that has been lacking at state and federal levels,’ Ms Barham said.

‘The federal government has been missing in action on this issue for the past five years, and while the NSW Government claims to want to make the state carbon neutral by 2050, it doesn’t actually have a plan to get us there.

‘We are calling on the Turnbull and Berejiklian governments to urgently develop a comprehensive plan to ramp up renewables investment to replace the state’s old polluting coal-fired power stations.

‘Renewable installation rates over the next five years need to double to prepare the state for the scheduled closure of Liddell Power Station in 2022,’ Ms Barham said.

Health benefits

The closure of coal-fired power stations in NSW will deliver significant health dividends to communities living in the shadow of what are some of the state’s most polluting facilities, according to Environmental Justice Australia.

EJA researcher Dr James Whelan said the state’s big five power stations – Eraring, Bayswater, Liddell, Vales Point and Mt Piper – emitted about 335,000 tonnes of toxic pollution in 2014-15.

‘Families that live in the shadow of these facilities have carried a heavy health burden for the rest of the state, sometimes for generations,’ Dr Whelan said.

‘Hastening the closure of these facilities may be one of the most effective ways to improve public health in these communities, but the transition must be planned and managed carefully.

‘Power stations emit harmful levels of more than 30 toxic pollutants, including lead and mercury, hydrochloric and sulphuric acid, and fine particles that contribute to the more than 3000 premature deaths from air pollution annually in Australia,’ Dr Whelan said.

Toxic effects

Australian Coal Alliance Wyong executive Mike Campbell agrees that communities surrounding Power Station complexes and mines in NSW have had to pay greatly with their long-term health and amenity.

‘For decades successive governments have ignored the call for cumulative air pollution studies to research health effects, particularly in children and the elderly, from the power and coal industry,’ Mr Campbell said.

‘There is a price to pay for the generation of fossil fuel energy and that price is being paid by unsuspecting families and communities.’

‘In any one year a power station such as Eraring produces 1,700 tonnes of carbon monoxide; 1,000 tonnes of hydrochloric acid; 40,000 tonnes of oxides of nitrogen; 45,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide as well as over 80 tonnes of various metal compounds according to the National Pollutant Inventory.’

‘Add to this the well-known product of coal extraction and transport in the vast amounts of particulates PM2.5 and PM10.’

‘This is emitted directly into the local area and yet governments in NSW have done nothing to link this constant, large-scale contamination with ensuing health problems.’

‘They have had their heads in the sand and need to be held to account.’

‘We have some of the most inefficient and highly polluting power stations by international standards and they are poorly regulated by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA),’ Mr Campbell said.

 


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