Reforms to target polluting coal trains welcome

The Hunter Community Environment Centre has welcomed the review of the EPA’s regulatory framework for the Hunter Valley coal train network. The review is the first concrete step to dealing with the contribution that coal trains make to particle pollution in Newcastle and the Hunter.

“These proposed changes show that the EPA is responding to community’s demand for cleaning up our air by making the coal train operators accountable for their pollution," said Hunter Community Environment spokesperson Dr John Mackenzie.

"Clearly, the EPA's current approach of regulating coal train pollution at arms length isn’t working. Newcastle and the Hunter still have particulate pollution levels that exceed World Health Organisation standards,” said Hunter Community Environment Centre (HCEC) spokesperson Dr John Mackenzie.

“To date, the EPA have tried to limit the pollution from coal trains by holding the rail line operators responsible for all of the diesel, dust, noise and vibration. But clearly this pollution is the responsibility of the companies running the coal trains themselves,” said Dr Mackenzie.

“We hope that this emerging regulatory framework will be better able to hold the coal train operators accountable for their pollution impacts, for their consistent refusal to minimise their dust emissions, and for the consequences these actions have on the communities that live along the coal line.  These impacts include increased incidences of asthma and other respiratory diseases, as well as stress about the well-being of children and older residents.”

“We are optimistic that this review signals a committed approach by the EPA to dealing with the health impacts of unregulated coal dust. We need an EPA that aggressively defends community health and the environment against polluters. The proposed changes should give the EPA the ability to directly target those responsible for coal pollution in our suburbs.”

“While better regulation is of course welcomed by those communities dealing with the current effects of coal train pollution, we still need to accept that we cannot endlessly increase the quantities of coal coming to Newcastle without compromising community health. Right now, we are at our limit, and the approval of a fourth coal terminal would push us beyond the limit of tolerable health effects.”

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