State Member for Newcastle Tim Owen has refused to support an inquiry into the leaked ARTC coal dust report released late May. The leaked report dated May 24 concluded that loaded coal wagons significantly increase particle pollution levels in suburban Newcastle, contradicting the conclusion of the ‘official’ version launched on May 30.
“We sincerely hoped that Mr Owen would represent the people of Newcastle and ensure that the NSW Government received reliable advice about particle pollution from coal trains,” said Coal Terminal Action Group spokesperson Ms Fee Mozeley. “He seems to want to keep his head in the sand and leave the people of Newcastle all on their own.”
Since the Newcastle community learnt of the problems with the report, more than 500 people have written to Premier O’Farrell calling for a Special Commission of Inquiry into the conflicting advice and requesting that he freeze Hunter Valley Coal Chain approvals until the inquiry has investigated the issue and handed down its recommendations.
Mr Owen refused all three requests made by CTAG representatives. He will not:
- Present the 500 letters to the Premier
- Request that the Premier initiate in inquiry into the matter
- Accompany CTAG to audit dust control measures at Newcastle’s existing coal terminals.
Newcastle community groups were further alarmed on Friday when Energy and Resources Minister Chris Hartcher remarked that, “Any attack on the coal industry is an attack on the people of Newcastle.”
“There is nothing wrong with wanting to know the truth about air pollution from coal trains,” said Ms Mozeley, “Nothing wrong with expecting industry to do everything possible to minimise pollution and nothing wrong with insisting that additional sources of pollution are put on hold until then.”
Community groups were shocked to learn last month that the Australian Rail and Track Corporation (ARTC) had ‘doctored’ their report on particle emissions from coal wagons. Fifteen of the report’s eighteen conclusions were changed between the 24 May and 30 May versions. In three instances, the opposite conclusions were stated.
“This ARTC business looks like a cover-up, and the truth needs to be established,” said Ms Mozeley. “It appears that a Commonwealth-owned corporation provided the NSW Government with misleading information about the impact of coal trains on public health. That is no basis for government policy.”
To establish the truth about air quality in the Hunter and display commitment to the safety of public health for residents living along the Hunter Coal rail corridor, a government-funded, independent study and report is essential. CTAG and its supporters expect the NSW government to act.