New data reveals coal power stations routinely breach licences putting human health and the environment at risk
Australia Beyond Coal launches the Coal Impacts Index today, this searchable website compiles 5 years of pollution data on coal power stations in the National Electricity Market (NEM) for the first time
- Coal power stations in the NEM have publicly reported 158 environmental protection licence breaches since 2015, including diesel and chemical spills, water and land contamination and generation of excessive coal ash dust
AGL is by far the biggest offender, responsible for around three-quarters of licence breaches reported by EPAs in NSW and VIC
Despite 158 licence breaches, this analysis found only 16 fines or enforceable undertakings were issued
Coal power stations have long been known for producing a significant proportion of Australia’s pollution and carbon emissions, this new research shows coal power stations are also routinely breaching their environmental protection licenses. The Coal Impacts Index puts this information into one easily searchable database for the first time. The Index is a website that tracks problems at coal power stations in the NEM, including: environmental protection licence breaches, breakdowns, carbon emissions and the release of toxic substances.
Examples of licence breaches and penalties include:
NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) alleges Bayswater Coal Power Station did not comply with a licence condition, in reference to an incident involving a diesel spill into Tinkers Creek.
Delta Electricity, the owner of Vales Point Power Station, is fined $30,000 by the NSW EPA, following alleged breaches at Vales Point Power Station when contaminated material, including asbestos, was allegedly spread on the site.
The Victorian EPA alleges Loy Yang A Coal Power Station did not comply with a licence condition, in reference to strong winds generating fugitive dust in their mine, which was blown off-site prompting eight community complaints.
Spokesperson for the Australia Beyond Coal campaign, Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter said “For too long, communities living close to coal power stations have been kept in the dark about the serious impacts of coal on their health. Now, thanks to the Coal Impacts Index, all Australians will be able to get a full picture of how their health and environment is affected by coal pollution.
“Coal pollution is a health hazard, responsible for hundreds of premature deaths, childhood asthma and other serious health conditions every year - and yet big polluters are routinely breaching their environmental protection licences. AGL is the worst offender, but all the owners of coal power stations must stop playing dice with people’s health and improve their compliance procedures. People in areas like the Latrobe Valley and the Hunter deserve better than being choked by pollution from the very coal power stations that depend on their community to run their operations.”
Dr Bob Vickers lives and works near several power stations including AGL’s Baywater and Liddell station. "As a GP who was born, raised and is now working in the Hunter, I see the devastating health impacts of pollution from the local coal power stations everyday in patients with asthma and respiratory illness. I see the impacts in low birth weight babies who face additional dangers during birth, and who will face lifelong health issues as a result of coal pollution. I am seriously concerned to learn from the Coal Impacts Index that local power stations are routinely breaching their environmental protection licences because these licences, which are already relatively weak by international standards, are currently all that stands between power stations and my community's health."
The Coal Impacts Index shows:
150 publicly reported environmental protection licence breaches at coal-fired power stations in NSW and VIC since 2015, more than 70% of these breaches were at coal power stations owned by AGL
286 breakdowns since 2018
135 million tonnes of carbon emissions at power stations in the NEM in 2019
The Index has been compiled using government data from the Clean Energy Regulator, the National Pollutant Inventory, Australian Energy Market Operator and the Environmental Protection Authorities in Victoria and New South Wales, the Department of Environment and Science in Queensland, and corporate annual reports from energy generators.
The Coal Impacts Index will be regularly updated when new information is made available and a Quarterly Index will be released with the latest findings from analysis of the data compiled in the Index.
View the Coal Impacts Index: www.coalimpactsindex.com.au