DOCTORS have ramped up demands for cleaner air by calling on the state’s environmental watchdog to substantially restrict air pollution limits at three NSW coal-fired power stations.
Doctors for the Environment has asked the Environment Protection Authority to impose tougher air emission standards on licences at Eraring, Vales Point and Mt Piper power stations.
“We understand the EPA is currently reviewing the licences,” the doctors’ group said in an open letter with the Climate and Health Alliance and Healthy Futures to key government ministers.
“This is an opportunity to bring the licences into line with international best practice, reduce air pollution and improve public health,” the three groups said in the letter sent to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and Resources and Energy Minister Don Harwin.
It follows condemnation of the NSW Government’s failure to impose tougher air emission standards at Bayswater power station near Muswellbrook, which received approval in early December for a $200 million upgrade to increase production and efficiency.
Doctors for the Environment said the effects of air pollution on human health were well documented, and included heart and lung disease, lung cancer, low birth weight, asthma attacks, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Studies had found coal-fired power stations are the main source of air pollutants sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, and are a major source of fine particle pollution.
“There is no safe limit to air pollution and there is a clear public health benefit to reducing levels as much as possible,” the letter to the NSW Government said.
While technologies to control mercury, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen emissions, such as flue gas desulfurization, selective catalytic reduction and activated carbon injection, are standard practice in most developed countries, they are not mandated for use in Australia, the letter said.
The technologies could reduce the dangerous emissions by up to 85 per cent, the letter said.
“Installation of these technologies would have a direct public health benefit. Current licence stack emission limits are not in line with international best practice and allow many times the pollution of other developed countries.
“Standards in other countries have been modified in response to increased understanding of the health impacts of exposure to air pollution.”
The three groups have called on the EPA and the NSW Government to impose licence conditions at the three power stations consistent with international best practice; ensure that readily-available technologies are installed to reduce sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and mercury, and that stack emissions are are continuously monitored and figures are published online in real time.