Coal Terminal Action Group

Coal Terminal Action Group via
12:04 PM (2 hours ago)

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Dear Nevile,

The Stop T4 campaign now has more than 3,000 supporters, and we’re growing all the time. We’ve sent four campaign updates since last June, asking people to donate so we can monitor air pollution, inviting people to come to the Stop T4 rally and urging folks to write to the Premier and other elected representatives.

This is a different kind of update. We’re not asking you to do anything for the moment. In fact, we want to thank everyone who has taken action to support the campaign against T4 during recent weeks and months. Thousands of people sent letters to the Premier. Our most recent appeal to fund the ‘coal train signature’ monitoring study raised almost $2,500. Our monitoring will kick off next Monday July 14th in Beresfield and Waratah.

We thought you’d appreciate hearing the story behind all the recent media about particle pollution from coal wagons. The Australian Rail Track Corporation report on particle pollution from coal trains has been front page news in the Newcastle Herald and Maitland Mercury. It has also been reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and The Daily Telegraph, on ABC’s Stateline, NBN television and many other places.

With so much media hype, you may be asking what all this means for community health in Newcastle and other coal-affected communities, and how it impacts on the NSW Government’s plans for T4.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) is the Commonwealth-owned corporation that manages the transport of coal from Hunter coalmines to Newcastle’s port. The ARTC is licenced to pollute by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), and the licence requires them to implement a pollution reduction program (PRP). To comply with this program, ARTC has monitored particle pollution from coal trains twice during the last 18 months.

In a nutshell:

  1. Experts condemn the ARTC report and recommend that the NSW Government dismiss its conclusions. Months after the monitoring, 15 of the report’s 18 conclusions were re-written the day before it was released.
  2. Within 24 hours of receiving the ‘doctored’ version of the report, EPA Chair Barry Buffier announced that the ARTC would not be required to cover coal wagons.
  3. No peer review was undertaken before the report was released. Scientific research is normally reviewed by two or three independent experts. The EPA asked Dr Luke Knibbs from the University of Queensland to review the study but announced and accepted its findings before receiving his review. Two weeks later, the EPA received Dr Knibbs’ review which identified a “major flaw” in the statistical analysis that is “very likely to obscure” and “underestimate” the reality of particle emissions from coal trains.
  4. Both the ARTC and Katestone say they have done nothing wrong, and simply followed the EPA’s instructions to the letter.

Having received the leaked report, we called on the NSW Premier to set up a Special Commission of Inquiry. More than 500 people wrote to the Premier supporting an inquiry. So far, Mr O’Farrell hasn’t replied. Instead, the EPA announced on July 3 that they would ask the Chief Scientist of NSW to recommend a statistician to re-examine the ARTC data.

In our meeting with member for Newcastle Tim Owen this morning. Mr Owen committed to presenting the Premier with your 500 emails supporting an inquiry. We’ll keep you posted on that.

But this will not get to the heart of the matter. A statistician cannot clear up the question of why the NSW Government received two conflicting versions of the ARTC report. And a statistician cannot advise the Premier whether particle pollution levels along the coal corridor are high enough to warrant covering coal wagons. Fitting lids would cost $10,000 per wagon and reduce particle pollution by up to 99%. The ARTC is determined not to put lids on wagons.

For these reasons, we feel a government inquiry is the appropriate response. If you haven’t yet, please phone, email or write to the Premier, Environment Minister Robyn Parker or Member for Newcastle Tim Owen to express your concern.

Keep up to date by ‘liking’ our Facebook page. And feel free to drop us a line, phone or drop by the HCEC office on Parry St any time.

For a healthy Newcastle,

James Whelan
for the Hunter Community Environment Centre
ph. 02 4962 5316

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