Call for Victorian EPA to regulate greenhouse gases

A report by independent charity Environment Victoria has claimed that the Victorian Environment Protection Authority has failed to use its powers to regulate greenhouse gases, and that Victoria’s biggest climate polluters face no real restrictions on their greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.

The report states that much of Victoria’s climate pollution can be attributed to a small number of industrial facilities, all of which are subject to EPA licencing.

“The EPA monitors pollution at these facilities by placing conditions on airborne emissions and discharges of waste and water. However the EPA currently places no restrictions on polluting our climate.”

Currently, the EPA is undergoing a reform process with funding of $165.2 million over five years to modernise and strengthen the EPA as an environmental regulator.

Key points of reform included:

• changing the focus of the EPA to preventing harm rather than responding to pollution

• greater ability to hold polluters to account, including speedier prosecutions and stronger penalties • creating a specialist environmental public health team

• strengthening the role of the EPA in mine regulation and strategic land use planning

• creating a Chief Environmental Scientist to strengthen the scientific basis of the EPA’s regulatory work

• building a whole-of-government approach to improving environmental justice (how pollution and environmental conditions affect people in differentsocio-economic circumstances and locations).

The Environment Victoria report states that while the EPA's new five-year strategy recognises climate change as a threat, it includes no details on actions it will take to address it.

“Despite the good progressthese reformsrepresent, they will remain unfinished business aslong asthe EPA failsto clarify when or how it will begin regulating and limiting climate pollution.”

Victoria's largest climate polluters are the three remaining coal-burning power stations – Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B and Yallourn. Other big polluters include refineries, gas power stations, chemical plants and the Portland aluminium smelter.

The report outlines a number of ways that the EPA could use its powers to limit climate pollution:

  • Annual emission limits: the EPA could set an annual discharge limit as a licence requirement;

  • Emissions intensity limits: a limit on the emissions intensity of the activities at each facility.

  • Limited life derogation: plants deemed too polluting are scheduled to close at a date in the medium term future, but in the interim are granted a maximum number of hours they may operate before that time.

The report, Licence to Pollute, is available here.

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