Community groups from throughout New South Wales will launch a petition today, calling on Premier O’Farrell and the NSW Legislative Council to instruct the coal industry to cover and wash coal wagons to protect community health. The groups aim to gather more than 10,000 petitions by the end of March, triggering a Parliamentary debate on the proposal.
“It’s time Premier O’Farrell and his Ministers took action to protect the health of the tens of thousands of people who live close to coal trains in the Hunter Valley, Newcastle and other parts of the state,” said Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesperson Ms Fee Mozeley.
HCEC is launching the petition in partnership with community groups in coal-affected regions throughout New South Wales including Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and Illawarra, Gloucester, Gunnedah, Lithgow and the Blue Mountains. Community groups in all these regions will be collecting signatures on the petition throughout February and March.
“Pollution monitoring studies have proven that coal trains are a major source of particle pollution and the 2013 Senate Inquiry recommended that state governments instruct the coal industry to cover wagons,” said Ms Mozeley.
Studies commissioned by the coal industry confirm that covering wagons reduces coal dust emissions by up to 99%, reduces aerodynamic drag and prevents the loss of 1-3% of each wagon’s load during transit.
“We’ve had a gutful of cover-ups by the Environment Protection Authority, leaked reports and industry denials that coal wagons pollute,” Ms Mozeley said. “It’s time for action.”
Particle pollution contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, asthma, hospital admissions and premature death. Monitoring along the Hunter Valley coal corridor during 2013 found that PM10 levels increase by up to 1200% as coal trains pass through residential areas.
“Covering coal wagons is a win-win,” said Hunter Communities Network spokesperson Ms Bev Smiles. “This cheap and simple measure will protect community health and save industry money for about one-thousandth the cost of the coal in each wagon. To be honest, we have no idea why the NSW mining industry hasn’t done it already.”
“We’re confident we can blitz the target of 10,000 signatures by the end of March. We look forward to the Parliamentary debate this petition will trigger,” said Ms Smiles, “and to the NSW Government instructing the coal industry to cover their wagons – at last.”