NSW Government set to consider proposed coal terminal: Newcastle’s future in the balance.

Proponents of a fourth coal terminal in Newcastle have submitted their ‘Preferred Project Report’ (PPR), triggering the next step in the NSW Government’s assessment of the project. A three-member Planning Assessment Commission will consider submissions on the PPR made during the next six weeks and hold public hearings before advising Planning Minister Brad Hazzard whether to reject or approve the project and under what conditions.

“Newcastle is already the world’s largest coal port and this proposed terminal would have devastating impacts on community health and the environment,” said Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesperson Mr Winn.

The environmental assessment for T4 drew 500 submissions when it was released for comment in February 2012. More than 90% of the submissions expressed concern and opposition to the proposed terminal. Since then, 7,000 people have written to Premier O'Farrell to express opposition to the project, and 1,500 people joined the Stop T4 rally in Newcastle in March 2013.

“Newcastle residents are concerned this coal terminal will further pollute our air, devastate wetlands, wipe out Hunter Valley farmlands, contribute to climate change and lock us into a boom and bust economy.”

The PPR describes a smaller coal terminal than Port Waratah Coal Services initially proposed. The terminal proposed in 2012 had a capacity of 120 million tonnes of coal per annum (Mtpa). The company now proposes a 70 Mtpa terminal. The maximum number of coal stockpiles has been cut from seven to four, the maximum number of rail tracks has been cut from eight to four, and the number of coal dump stations from four to two.

Opposition to the proposed terminal has brought together an extraordinary alliance of residents groups, environmentalists, unions and academics that will meet later this week to consider the PPR. [3] The Coal Terminal Action Group, an alliance of 21 community groups opposed to T4, will be seeking an extension of time to respond to the PPR report which is more than 1000 pages long.

“We look forward to the Commission's public hearings in Newcastle later in the year, and to a rigorous and independent assessment of the project's potential impacts,” said Mr Winn.

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