Regulation of Power Stations

Air quality in New South Wales is comparable to other Australian jurisdictions, with air pollution concentrations low by world standards.

In accordance with the requirements of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, the EPA reviews environment protection licences every five years. The Eraring, Vales Point and Mount Piper reviews are now complete. The five yearly licence reviews for the Bayswater and Liddell power stations are due to be completed by 2020 and 2022 respectively.

The EPA’s statutory reviews of the Eraring, Mount Piper and Vales Point power stations environment protection licences determined that initiatives already underway will address the immediate improvements required in the licences.

The EPA has a comprehensive and robust framework for regulating power stations in NSW. This framework includes a contemporary and innovative range of compliance and enforcement tools complimented by strong penalties and the ability to seek court orders to redress environmental impacts and recover any monetary benefits from non-compliance.

The EPA is currently working with all power station operators in NSW to revise concentration limits and improve monitoring and reporting of emissions, with all coal fired power stations now continuously monitoring stack emissions.

Power Station Environment Protection Licences

Environment protection licences issued by the EPA require power stations to meet legally enforceable conditions relating to air, noise, water, waste and land contamination. The conditions are designed to protect the community and the environment.

The power station licences also include specific air emission limits, monitoring and reporting conditions.

The EPA is committed to providing the community with information and requires licenced industry operators to make pollution monitoring results available to the EPA and community.

Power stations are also required to operate and maintain control equipment to minimise the emission of air pollutants in accordance with strict conditions included on all power station licences.

Licence Reviews

In accordance with the requirements of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, the EPA reviews environment protection licences every five years. The Eraring, Vales Point and Mount Piper reviews are now complete. The five yearly licence reviews for the Bayswater and Liddell power stations are due to be completed by 2020 and 2022 respectively.

Reports on the individual power station licence reviews are available

The licence reviews found that while no immediate changes to the licences are required, there is an opportunity to ensure the licences remain fit for purpose and are consistent across the sector. Over coming months the licences will be varied to ensure consistency. This will include implementation of the recommendations of the Review of Coal Fired Power Station Air Emissions and Monitoring.

As a result of that review the EPA has been working with Energy Australia to develop a monitoring regime for the Mt Piper power station and this is now in place and operating. The Mount Piper environment protection licence will be varied to include conditions regarding continuous monitoring of air emissions. This means that all NSW power stations have continuous monitoring of stack emissions.

The EPA welcomes community contributions to the process of reviewing in environment protection licence conditions and received more than 1500 submissions in relation to the three power station licence reviews. Many issues raised in the submissions are being addressed as part of the implementation of recommendations from the Review of Coal Fired Power Station Air Emissions and Monitoring.

The EPA acknowledges that a number of important issues were raised in the public submissions. However, some of these related to matters that are beyond the scope of the licence review process.

The EPA continues to work closely with NSW Health and other government agencies in considering the available evidence to inform regulatory priorities.

Review of Coal Fired Power Station Air Emissions and Monitoring

In 2018, prior to the statutory five year review of the environment protection licences, the EPA completed a Review of Coal Fired Power Station Air Emissions and Monitoring (PDF 857KB) involving a comprehensive review of stack emission air quality monitoring and reporting at all power stations.

Overall, this review found extensive compliance and few instances of non-compliance with regulatory requirements, including compliance with emission limits and monitoring requirements. Some pollutant concentrations consistently trend well below the specified limits. The review found no evidence of deliberate misreporting or underreporting of air emissions.

This review found some opportunity for continuous improvement and the EPA is working with all of the state’s power station operators to further strengthen licence conditions, ensure greater consistency between licences and ensure licenced emission limits are consistent with operational performance.

These amendments are being progressively implemented.

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