The latest planned coal project expansion to come before NSW's Independent Planning Commission is symptomatic of the State Government’s failure to address unacceptable cumulative impacts on the region’s air quality, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.
The IPC recently reopened submissions concerning the Mangoola Continued Operations Project, located in the Wybong Valley, in response to information received from government agencies about the cumulative trend of air quality and mounting community complaints in Muswellbrook.
The pending decision on the project comes at a time when numerous politicians from other regions of the state are descending on the Upper Hunter and making inaccurate and unhelpful comments as parties jostle for votes at the upcoming by-election.
Wybong Valley local and ex-coal miner Michael White said he was extremely disappointed by Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s comments dismissing Upper Hunter Valley locals’ concerns over air quality.
“It was like seeing someone deny the existence of climate change. The data is there, but Mr Barilaro is simply refusing to accept it,” he said.
“When you look at the data for 2018, before the bushfires temporarily made air quality worse, there were already eight locations in the Hunter, six of which were in the Upper Hunter, that had annual PM10 readings exceeding the national environmental standards for ambient air quality.
“Coal mines have clearly contributed to this.”
Mr White also said, in its submission to the IPC the Department had to rely on an air pollution inventory from nine years ago when discussing PM2.5 levels and that no more characterisation studies had been undertaken despite several new mine expansions since.
“Since 2012 there have been many new and expanded coal mines in the Upper Hunter, yet the department still expects us to believe the primary driver of air pollution in the region is woodsmoke for heating.
“The NSW Environment Protection Authority in 2015 found off road diesel emissions associated with coal mining to blame for a significant portion of PM2.5 in the Hunter Valley.
“It is a great scandal that we do not have a federal or state off-road diesel emissions standard.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “Asthma rates are higher in Muswellbrook than the rest of the Hunter, and adolescent asthma and deaths from respiratory illness are significantly higher in the Hunter than elsewhere in NSW.
“Is Mr Barilaro ignoring the health data because he’s shying away from taking a tough line with multinational mining companies?
“We’re calling for the IPC to reject the proposed Mangoola expansion given the added air pollution it will produce, and for the government to overhaul its Draft Clean Air Strategy to clamp down on air pollution by coal mines.”
Lock the Gate Alliance's submission is here.
Michael White's submission is here.