PROPOSED changes to state air pollution regulations do not go far enough, critics warn, and remain open to exemption applications allowing coal-fired power stations to exceed NSW pollution standards for years at a time.
Environment Protection Agency executive director for regulatory practice and environment solutions, David Fowler, said air quality in NSW "is good by world standards" and the proposed changes will further reduce emissions.
"The proposed changes will further reduce air pollution and lead to improved visibility, less offensive odours, healthier vegetation and an improved condition of the built and natural environment," Mr Fowler says.
However, Newcastle-based Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Jocelyn McGarity says that, relative to internationally acceptable standards, NSW is lagging behind. "We're pretty concerned that the standards haven't changed at all really for 20 years, so they are based on the health evidence from 2000 and the evidence has grown substantially since then," she said.
"The other major concern we have is this ability for operators to apply for exemptions from the standards. That's what we saw at Vales Point, they got a five-year exemption which means they will have had a 15-year grace from having to reduce emissions in any substantial way."
That has set a precedent for other power stations, like Mount Piper and Bayswater which are scheduled to meet more stringent emissions in 2025 and 2030, she said.
"It really defeats the purpose of the law. It was designed to make operators have to upgrade their facilities as they aged to protect human health and the environment and that's not how it's really working in practise."
The proposed new emissions limits for existing coal-fired power stations in NSW will be up to six times worse than the European Union's limits for solid particles, and 7.5 times worse for nitrogen oxide levels, the Environmmental Justice Australia submission says.
It also argues that the time frames for phasing to stricter emissions levels occur too slowly.
As the legislative review rolls on - the community consultation period ended on June 3 and the re-made regulation must be ready to take effect on September 1, health experts continue to link air pollution to disease with evidence it can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.
IN THE NEWS:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.