'We will scorch the earth': Industry hits back at coal warning

18th August 2017 4:30 AM
ABOVE: Environmental Justice Australia's breakdown of emissions limits for Gladstone's Power Station compared to international standards. ABOVE: Environmental Justice Australia's breakdown of emissions limits for Gladstone's Power Station compared to international standards.

AN ENVIRONMENT advocacy group has warned air monitoring in Gladstone is inefficient, and regulations for coal-fired power stations need an urgent overhaul to protect residents living nearby.

Environmental Justice Australia released its findings on coal-fired power stations, including Gladstone's, this week, warning pollutants are contributing to asthma, lung cancer, headaches and nausea. It said the power station, about a kilometre away from Gladstone's city, was the second highest emitter of oxides of nitrogen in 2015-16.

EJA warned Gladstone's air quality monitoring stations fell short of being effective because they can only be monitored one hour at a time.

"This makes it impossible for community members to learn about their longer term exposure and pollution trends," EJA said.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said Gladstone's eight air monitoring stations provided a "rigorous and transparent" reporting system.

"Operators are required to comply with the strict requirements of their Environmental Authority, which is set by the government, so not to cause harm to the environment or community," he said.

The environment group also said Gladstone's deputy mayor Chris Trevor "impeded" the region's transition to renewable energy.

Taking a different tone to his recent comments, "I love coal, I bathe in coal, I drink rum in coal", Cr Trevor said he accepted we couldn't rely on coal forever.

"If we continue to burn coal at some point we will scorch the Earth, I accept that," Cr Trevor said.

"But what I don't accept, while the rest of the world is building new coal-fired power stations we've said no to them."

Describing emission limits as "lax" compared to international standards, EJA demanded an independent study into health impacts of coal-fired power stations, and for tougher restrictions.

"The Gladstone power station presents a particular challenge for the Queensland Government because of its location in a city that has many other significant sources of toxic air pollution and that experiences elevated concentrations of air pollution," EJA said.

"Australia's regulators have a very 'hands off' approach to regulating power stations, which is an entirely inadequate approach."

Callide's Stanwell Power Station also hit back, saying claims it was the fifth highest pollution emitter in Australia were based on inaccurate information.

"We have invested in an advanced control system at Stanwell Power Station and have strict processes in place to ensure emissions remain in compliance with the Environmental Authority limits," site manager James Oliver said.