A new report by Environment Victoria, Licence to Pollute: Why climate pollution is the unfinished business of reforms to the Environment Protection Authority, found the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is failing to tackle climate pollution, despite undergoing a $162 million reform process.
Environment Victoria Campaigns Manager Dr Nicholas Aberle said: “While the EPA currently fines Victorians for dumping litter, it lets large companies dump millions of tonnes of climate pollution into the atmosphere and get off scot-free.”
He said until this is addressed Victoria’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases will continue to pollute, Victoria will fail to meet future emissions targets and the EPA reforms will remain half-finished.
Alberle said: “It is staggering that Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority is doing almost nothing to protect Victoria from the biggest environmental threat we face. The EPA monitors pollution to our air, land and water, but they are allowing climate polluters to dump unlimited amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.
“Victoria is spending $162.5 million reforming and modernising the EPA. These reforms are much needed and very welcome, but climate change remains a massive blind spot for our environmental watchdog. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, this needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.”
The report found the EPA has had the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for many years and this power was clarified in Victoria’s new Climate Change Act 2017, but the EPA has not used these powers to reduce climate pollution.
Victoria’s ten biggest greenhouse gas emitters are responsible for about 60 million tonnes of climate pollution, but they currently face no restrictions or penalties for this damage.
The EPA could regulate climate pollution through annual limits or emission intensity standards, which could be tightened over time and managed through the EPA’s licencing and works approval systems.
Big emitters could reduce their climate pollution by improving efficiency, replacing on-site power generation with renewable energy, curtailing output at times of low demand, or through establishing a trading scheme.
Alberle said: “The EPA is currently reviewing the licence conditions of Victoria’s coal-burning power stations. This is the perfect opportunity to exercise its regulatory power to curb climate pollution from our state’s three biggest climate polluters. A major overhaul is also needed for conditions limiting emissions of toxic air pollution such as PM2.5, PM10 and mercury.
“In the past month over 3000 people have written to the EPA calling on them to crack down on climate pollution. The EPA have the power and the expertise to regulate greenhouse gas pollution — it’s time to get on with it.”