Community concerns about coal dust cover-up confirmed. Chief Scientist and NSW EPA seek further advice

Concerned Newcastle residents have welcomed today’s announcement that the NSW Government will seek further advice on the report into particle pollution from coal trains and that the study will be independently reviewed. The Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane has been asked to recommend a statistician to investigate “major flaws” in the report.

“When the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) submitted this report to the NSW Government in June, it was clear to us and to independent experts that there were major design faults and questionable conclusions,” said Coal Terminal Action Group spokesperson Ms Fee Mozeley. “Our concerns have been confirmed by an independent reviewer and the EPA who identify flaws in the ‘scientific rigour of the study and the robustness of its conclusions’”.

“A different version of the report was leaked to us, showing how 15 of the report’s 18 conclusions were changed at the last moment to underestimate how much particle pollution comes from loaded and unloaded coal wagons,” said Ms Mozeley.

“In April this year, we asked Environment Minister Robyn Parker to ensure the second ARTC report was peer reviewed before it was released – the appropriate time for review to occur,” she said. “The Minister must now be wishing she had followed our advice.”

“Independent advice from a qualified statistician is welcome, but not enough,” said Ms Mozeley. “When the doctoring of this report became public knowledge on June 12th, we wrote to Premier O’Farrell asking for a Special Commission of Inquiry to get to the bottom of the matter. Since then, more than 500 Newcastle residents have sent similar letters, but we have not yet had any response from the Premier.”

“The community is leading the EPA every step of the way,” said Ms Mozeley. “Community groups demanded a study into particle pollution from coal wagons, we challenged the findings of both reports undertaken by the Australian Rail Track Corporation and we called for the study to be peer-reviewed.”

“The community have a right to know what we’re breathing, where air pollution comes from and what can be done to reduce it,” said Ms Mozeley. “This discredited report by the Australian Rail Track Corporation is no basis for policy decisions like whether or not to cover coal wagons and stockpiles in a heavily polluted community like ours.”

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