Regulation of power stations

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

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 complemented by strong penalties and the ability to seek court orders to redress environmental impacts and recover any monetary benefits from non-compliance.

The EPA has been working with all power station operators in NSW to strengthen monitoring and reporting requirements and tighten air emission limits.

The EPA is working to improve transparency for the community and provide greater consistency of environmental regulation across the sector, 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 noise, air, water, land contamination, waste and other operational matters.

The conditions are designed to protect the community and the environment. Power stations are also required to operate and maintain pollution control equipment in a proper and efficient manner and minimise the emission of air pollutants in accordance with strict conditions included on all power station licences.

Power station licences are published on the EPA’s public register. 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.

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, Bayswater and Mount Piper reviews are now complete.

The five yearly licence review for the Liddell power station is due to be completed by 2022.

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

Reports on the individual power station licence reviews are available below

The EPA welcomes community contributions to the process of reviewing environment protection licence conditions and received more than 1500 submissions in relation to the four 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 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 improvement and the EPA has worked 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.

Each power station licence has been varied to address the review recommendations. The varied licences have been published on the EPA’s public register.

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