Lawyers at Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) last week commenced legal proceedings to secure documents relating to pollution control technology at Yallourn.
Yallourn Power Station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley is powered by brown coal ripped out from Australia’s second-largest open-cut mine that is situated adjacent to the facility. Around 18 million tonnes of high moisture brown coal is used to feed the station each year, which provides around 22 per cent of Victoria’s electricity.
Yallourn Power Station is also responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions. According to Environment Victoria, Yallourn generates “the dirtiest energy in the country”, with an emissions intensity of more than 1.34 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per megawatt-hour. Environment Victoria says Yallourn emits up to 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide pollution annually and is responsible for 13 percent of the state’s emissions.
Beyond carbon emissions associated with the power station are toxins such as mercury and fine particulate pollution it spews into the atmosphere.
EJA suspects the electrostatic dust precipitator (EDP) technology at the power station, which is meant to control fine particle pollution and dust, has not been operating effectively.
“Homes around Yallourn power station are being covered in layers of coal ash pollution,” states the group. ” We have launched legal proceedings against the EPA in VCAT to find out what this means for locals’ health. The community needs to know what they are breathing.”
Documents Obtained Under FOI Heavily Redacted
Legal action hasn’t been EJA’s first stop in trying to access information.
In March last year, it lodged a Freedom of Information Request with the Victorian EPA seeking a copy of reports detailing assessment and condition of the power station’s EDPs.
“The EPA determined to release the reports with content so heavily redacted the information provided was meaningless.”
The redactions were reportedly made to protect commercially sensitive information relating to owner of the plant, EnergyAustralia.
“It is unclear why the EPA believes information about Yallourn power station’s outdated pollution controls is so commercially sensitive that it cannot be released to the public,” said Bronya Lipski, an EJA lawyer.
EJA states it and members of the Latrobe Valley community have been pushing for the EPA to require power station operators to install a full suite of best practice pollution control equipment to protect human health in the Latrobe Valley. At this point, no decision has been made.
At this stage, Yallourn Power Station will keep generating until its announced closure in 2032, but it’s becoming increasingly likely it won’t last that long. Emissions issues aside, the coal-fired clunker is really showing its age, with 37 breakdowns between December 31, 2017 and December 31, 2019.
Analysis by Reputex commissioned by Environment Victoria published late last year indicated it could be closed by 2023, with supply shortages and price spikes avoided by immediate investment in replacement renewable energy supply and battery storage.