More than 10,000 voices in coal communities unite to demand covered wagons

A petition calling on the New South Wales Government to instruct the coal industry to cover and wash coal wagons to protect community health was tabled today in Parliament by the Shadow Minister for the Hunter, Ms Sonia Hornery.

The petition has been signed by 10,346 residents in coal-affected communities across New South Wales including Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and Illawarra, Gloucester, Gunnedah, Lithgow and the Blue Mountains.

The petition follows on from yesterday’s Parliamentary Inquiry into the EPA’s cover-up of coal train pollution monitoring, where Committee members heard compelling evidence  of the urgent need to address coal pollution in the Hunter Valley from coal mining and haulage.

The Hunter Community Environment Centre, who co-ordinated the “Cover the Wagons” petition drive, are eagerly anticipating the parliamentary debate that is triggered by a petition of this size.

“The government has long had  evidence that coal trains pollute our residential areas. With this petition, they now have a clear mandate to act,” said John Mackenzie, spokesperson for the Hunter Community Environment Centre.

“Monitoring studies from the community, from the coal industry and from the government itself have all proven that coal trains are a major source of particle pollution.  The NSW Government’s own best practice guide, which was published in 2011, recommended covering and washing coal wagons to limit pollution. It’s time for them to finally take their own advice and properly regulate coal train pollution,” said Mr Mackenzie.

“The advantages of covered wagons are clear, which these thousands of petitioners know only too well. Cleaning up coal train pollution would improve community health, protect the environment, improve our quality of life, increase property values in the rail corridor, and create new manufacturing jobs,” said Mr Mackenzie.

“There are local manufacturing companies waiting in the wings - ready, willing and able to mass supply coal covers to the existing fleet. Jobs would be created in retrofitting existing trains and modifying loading and unloading facilities. These opportunities would surely be welcome in our community, which is experiencing a  decline in employment in manufacturing industries.”

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