Residents concerned about the link between pollution from coal-fired power stations and high rates of childhood asthma organised a protest outside the Vales Point Power Station at Mannering Park on January 18.
Members of local group Future Sooner installed 650 paper cut-outs of children on the lawn outside the power station.
Studies have shown that pollution from coal-fired power stations has caused asthma in 650 children on the Central Coast. Childhood asthma rates in this area are double those in many parts of Sydney.
“Asthma associated with coal-fired power stations results from a pollutant called nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Future Sooner spokesman Will Belford said. The NO2 emissions standards for coal-fired power stations in other countries are significantly more stringent than in NSW.”
Vales Point has a licence to emit pollutants in excess of approved limits: 1500 milligrams of NO2 per cubic metre compared with Europe, which is 150 milligrams of NO2 per cubic metre and Japan where it is 57 milligrams (Mg) of NO2 per cubic metre.
Vales Point’s licence to pollute expired at the end of last year. An application for a 5-year renewal was made on December 23 to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which has 60 days to respond. It is expected to make a decision in early February.
Future Sooner called on the EPA to not grant the licence and instead make the owners of Vales Point clean up the pollution.
Belford said that owners Trevor St Baker and Brian Flannery, who bought the power station from the NSW government for $1 million in 2015 and last year reported $60 million in dividends, have the means “to install whatever is required to clean up the emissions”.
He continued: “They don’t need this exemption for the next five years. Why should these people be granted an exemption when they have the capacity to clean up this power station and operate it at the same level as all the other ones?”
Belford said the station had already been given a $30,000 fine for twice breaching its exemption licence. “That’s breaching a licence that already allows Vales Point to pollute at double the NSW legal levels.”