EPA clears Loy Yang B output



THE Environment Protection Authority has reverted discharge limits for sulphur dioxide emissions at Loy Yang B power station after granting its operator Alinta a change in its licence conditions.

Alinta made an application in August for the EPA to allow for its coal generator to increase discharge limits for sulphur dioxide to 100,000 grams per minute, up from 91,000g/min.

The EPA had held back emissions for 12 months while it was assessing data from Loy Yang B as part of last year’s brown coal-fired power station licence reviews.

Sulphur dioxide emissions are directly related to the variable amounts of amount of sulphur in brown coal.

The amended licence allows for the variation in the quality of coal provided to Loy Yang B from the open cut mine, combined with the need to provide energy reliability in the market.

Alinta told the EPA it actively monitored its sulphur emissions through a “coal quality specification agreement” with its coal provider.

“We require a greater operational margin to manage compliance with our licence condition, to prevent Loy Yang B – the most efficient and reliable coal fired power station in Victoria – from withdrawing much-needed generation to the NEM,” it said.

The company told the EPA it had just completed a generator upgrade at the time of the EPA licence reviews, which had improved efficiency and better output.

“At the time, we were also supplied with coal containing a lower sulphur content than what has been provided more recently,” the submission said.

“Ahead of making this request, we completed a range of mitigation actions including working closely with our coal provider to provide lower sulphur content coal so far as reasonably practicable.”

But the changes have raised red flags for Environmental Justice Australia, with concerns that the Latrobe Valley is already disproportionately exposed to sulphur dioxide and particle pollution.

EJA lawyer Chloe Badcock said the amendment set Alinta’s pollution limits back to the same levels that were in place for at least 20 years before the licence reviews.

“It is unconscionable that big polluters like Alinta Energy are not held accountable for pumping out tonnes of dangerous toxic pollution,” Ms Badcock said.

“The EPA are required to take the best available techniques or technologies into account.

“There are technologies used widely around the world that effectively reduce emissions, typically by over 98 per cent.”

An EPA spokesperson assured that there would be no increase in health risks or a reduction in safety to the Latrobe Valley community.

“The Latrobe Valley air quality modelling and the air monitoring network data shows that the ground level concentrations of SO2 in the valley are below human health guidelines,” the spokesperson said.

“The EPA licence review was comprehensive with multiple community meetings and a community conference which informed several requirements the EPA imposed on the new licence conditions.”