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Perrottet Government chokes on Clean Air Strategy

Crucial licence review gathers dust as “Clean Air Strategy” fails to clean up coal mining

The new NSW Clean Air Strategy that is meant to help the state’s population breathe easier over the next decade will do little to reduce particulate pollution from coal mines. 

The strategy, released today, also admits the state has made no progress on a long-delayed review of the state’s Load Based Licencing Scheme - a polluter pays scheme that requires industry to pay per kilogram of pollution created, but as yet has not been applied to the state’s coal mining industry. 

“The people of the Hunter cannot hold their breaths while the NSW Perrottet Government dithers about making coal mines pay for their pollution,” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods.

“The strategy contains no concrete policies to directly reduce particulate matter from coal mines, or their greenhouse emissions. After five years’ wait, this is disappointing, to say the least.

“The Clean Air Strategy relies on the existing regime for controlling air pollution from coal mining, but that regime has left the Hunter with unacceptably high levels of particle pollution for years.

“People from coal mine impacted communities cannot hold their breath while the load-based licencing review gathers dust in a drawer. It’s just money to the coal industry, but for the people of the Hunter, this is about their health and the wellbeing of their children and communities." 

Last year, Lock the Gate Alliance released a report it commissioned which showed the New South Wales Planning Department routinely directed coal mines to ignore breaches of air pollution conditions. In total, the report found 439 instances of recorded PM10 24-hour average concentrations above the official National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) criteria, but only 32 recorded air quality incidents or non-compliances, and just 10 infringement notices or cautions issued.

The report also showed the department had been systematically amending mine approvals to reduce the number of technical breaches being reported. 

“The notion that the development assessment process and conditions of mining approvals are sufficient to protect the people of the Hunter from the harmful effects of particulate pollution is dangerous and negligent,” said Ms Woods.

“NSW has a scheme that will focus mining companies squarely on cutting pollution by making them pay for it. Apply the load-based licencing scheme to coal mining and see how fast the air clears.” 

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