An apparent decision by NSW Labor to leave the coal mining industry out of its polluter pays policy smacks of influence by fossil fuel lobbyists, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.
Singleton Doctor Bob Vickers said, “We have been trying to get action on the terrible air quality in the Hunter for years, but politicians are beholden to the mining lobby. The air pollution is causing serious adverse health effects for our local communities.”
“If the coal mines had to pay per kilogram of particulate pollution they created, I’m sure we’d see an immediate effect on air quality in Singleton. There’s no good reason to let them pollute for free and impose cost and health burdens on the rest of the community.”
A review of the state’s polluter pays system was begun by the EPA in 2016, but then stalled.
Coal mining is exempt from the current system, but the EPA has highlighted the growing contribution coal mining is making to air pollution in the Hunter and said they were considering including it in the scheme in future.
However, the Labor Party’s election platform, while committing to concluding the stalled review of the scheme, appears to foreshadow that it will continue to leave coal mines out of the scheme, allowing miners to pollute for free when other industries must pay.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “This apparent pre-emptive exemption for coal mining in NSW Labor’s policy is ominous and points to the disproprotionate influence of the mining industry in public policy in NSW.
“It’s not just the Labor party of course. The people of the Hunter have already been suffering from delays in the review of the load-based licencing scheme and the clean air plan to be finalised, thanks to the current Government’s inaction.
“We know the NSW Minerals Council opposes coal mining being included in the load based licencing scheme.
“This looks like the mining industry exerting behind-the-scenes pressure on NSW politicians at the expense of good policy, which will leave Hunter communities and the environment suffering.”