Australia is letting power stations get away with emitting high levels of toxic pollution that countries like India and Bangladesh are actively working to reduce because of lax state controls, a study has found.
Environmental Justice Australia researcher James Whelan says the federal and state governments have “some catching up to do” based on his analysis of the annual National Pollutant Inventory.
“State governments are allowing coal-fired power stations to emit as much as 20 times more toxic air pollution than permitted in other countries,” he said.
The inventory keeps track of 93 toxic substances in emissions that have health and environmental effects.
“This year’s NPI confirms the urgent need for an overhaul of state pollution controls for coal-fired power stations and the introduction of national pollution standards at the federal level,” Dr Whelan said.
He says advice from international experts shows Victoria in particular is lagging behind Bangladesh and India on power station regulations.
“In other countries, these power stations would not be permitted to pollute at this level,” Dr Whelan said.
Emission controls are not yet standard practice in Australia, with most power stations estimating their emissions rather than measuring them, using standards from 20 years ago.
Dr Whelan’s analysis shows Victorian power stations emit more mercury than other coal-fired power stations in Australia.
Most power stations reported emissions under 100kg per year, but the three Latrobe Valley power stations reported emitting between double and quadruple that amount.
Environmental Justice Australia’s analysis also revealed:
* Energy Australia’s Yallourn power station is the highest mercury emitter of all Australian power stations.
* The NRG Gladstone power station emitted more oxides of nitrogen than any other power station, despite generating only half as much energy as Origin Energy’s Eraring power station.
* The Queensland government-owned Tarong power station emitted more than two million kilograms of deadly fine particle pollution, 15 times more than Origin Energy’s Eraring, Australia’s largest power station.
The National Pollutant Inventory is an annual air pollution report published by the federal government using information supplied by various industries and compiled by states and territories.