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Liddell plant given ‘exemption to pollute’

NSW’s Liddell power station has been allowed to emit almost double the level of nitrogen oxides a plant of its age would normally be limited to, documents show.

A report prepared for operators AGL, obtained by Environmental Justice Australia under freedom of information laws, reveals the energy giant in 2015 successfully applied to have the station’s environment protection licence varied to allow 1400 micrograms per cubic metre of nitrogen oxide emissions.

A power station of Liddell’s age would normally be subject to a limit of 800 micrograms per cubic metre, according to the report.

New power plants in NSW must comply with a limit of 500 micrograms per cubic metre of nitrogen oxides, in line with world’s best practice.

AGL says the exemption existed before the company bought the plant from the state government in 2014.

The same conditions exist for Bayswater power station in Muswellbrook and a number of other NSW coal-fired power plants, a spokesman told AAP.

Environmental Justice Australia claims Liddell’s emissions are up to 14 times the concentration allowable in the United States.

“This shocking revelation confirms the NSW Government’s laissez faire approach to air pollution control,” researcher James Whelan said in a statement on Monday.

“Liddell is licensed to emit toxic pollution at levels that should see it subject to serious enforcement actions.”

Dr Whelan says the report’s findings should be enough to convince the government to close down ageing power stations such as Liddell.

It comes as AGL on Monday announced it had knocked back Alinta Energy’s offer to buy Liddell, with the power company pushing ahead with its plan to close the station in 2022.

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