Australian power stations ranked among worst for toxic pollution

Presence of SO2 emission hotspots detected by NASA OMI.

Australian power stations in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria and Lake Macquarie region, New South Wales have been named and shamed on a list of the world’s top hotspots for deadly sulphur dioxide pollution.

The report by Greenpeace, “Global SO2 emission hotspot database” uses global NASA data on the largest sources of SO2 – one of the key pollutants contributing to deaths from air pollution worldwide.

The Latrobe Valley was ranked number 49 on a list of top SO2 emission hotspots in the world, with the Lake Macquarie region ranking 79th.

In the Latrobe Valley, it lists Yallourn, Loy Yang A and Loy Yang B coal power station as the major source of the pollution, and in the Lake Macquarie region attributes the pollution to Vales Point and Eraring power stations.

Pollution in the Hunter Valley region from Liddell and Bayswater Power Stations rank the region as number 91 on the list.

The biggest source of SO2 pollution in Australia comes from Mount Isa in Queensland, ranked 32 overall, which is home a complex of mining operations with lead and copper smelters.

Overall, Australia is the 12th-worst polluter of human-caused SO2 emissions worldwide. The worst are India, China and Russia, ranked respectively.

The report suggests a policy vacuum stating, “Despite globally significant emissions of SO2, there are currently no national or statewide limits on power station emissions of SO2, in any Australian jurisdiction, placing Australia’s system of pollution regulation behind countries including China, the US and the EU”.

Greenpeace Nordic senior analyst Lauri Myllyvirta said, “The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas is the largest source of emissions of SO2 resulting in disastrous air pollution and premature deaths.

“Clean energy could save billions of dollars in health costs and thousands of lives every year.

“It’s fundamental that governments rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and set stronger emission standards as they shift over to sustainable alternatives.”

Last year, a study by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) found that air pollution from New South Wales coal-fired power stations cause 279 deaths in the state every year.

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