Australian coal-fired power stations fail to meet international emissions standards

A report released by Environmental Justice Australia has condemned Australia's regulation of coal-fired power stations which release more than a million tonnes of toxic pollution into the air each year.

The report, which draws on the emissions data, licences, community complaints, compliance records and rehabilitation plans of ten of Australia’s most toxic coal- fired power stations in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Its findings include:

  • Coal-fired power stations emit more than 30 toxic substances that have serious impacts on the health of communities that live near them;

  • Coal-fired power stations are the biggest source of PM2.5, SO2 and oxides of nitrogen in Australia;

  • In almost all cases the emissions limits applied to Australian power stations are significantly less stringent than the standards in the European Union, United States and China. Loy Yang A’s particle limit is eight times China’s limit. The mercury limits for some NSW power stations are 666 times higher than the US limits;

  • Pollution reduction technologies that have been available for many years and are frequently used overseas could significantly reduce power station emissions but are not being used in Australia;

  • There are significant problems with the monitoring and reporting of power station emissions;

  • No power station in Victoria, NSW or Queensland has been prosecuted for any offence in the past ten years;

  • None of the ten power stations has rehabilitation bonds or financial assurances imposed on it to ensure decommissioning and rehabilitation will occur if the operator does not adequately rehabilitate after closure.

The report concluded that state government regulators in each state have allowed power station operators to continue to emit unacceptable levels of pollution.

Their emission limits have been lax when compared to international standards; the monitoring and reporting they require from power stations is inadequate; they have not required power stations to implement pollution reduction technologies that many power stations overseas have installed; and they do not strictly enforce the law.

As a result, communities are exposed to excessive and preventable levels of toxic pollution.

The report, Toxic and terminal: How the regulation of coal-fired power stations fails Australian communities is available at

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