EPA conspires against community over Hunter Coal Dust

Dr James Whelan says the NSW EPA lied about Coal Dust Pollution

For immediate public release

The Hunter Community Environment Centre (HCEC) has gained access under the NSW Freedom of Information laws to correspondence between several government departments relating to the pollution licence conditions held by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC). The documents demonstrate a systematic public relations effort by the EPA to conceal the extent and nature of pollution caused by coal trains in residential areas.

The email correspondence linked below between the NSW EPA, other government departments, the NSW Environment Minister and the coal industry has revealed a systematic cover up and clear evidence that coal trains increase pollution.” Dr James Whelan

Emails reveal massive cover-up and a conspiracy to hide the truth

The Hunter Community Environment Centre (HCEC) gained access under Freedom of Information to 3,056 pages of correspondence between several government departments regarding the pollution licence held by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC). The documents demonstrate a failure to protect the environment by senior EPA employees and the agency’s Chair, and a systematic public relations effort to conceal the extent and level of pollution caused by uncovered trains.

The massive volume of email correspondence between officials in the EPA, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), the Environment Minister’s office, NSW Health and the ARTC demonstrates that pollution monitoring studies were released despite internal criticism by technical reviewers, that the EPA had pre-determined how to communicate the findings before receiving the reports, and that public assurances made by the Environment Minister and EPA Chief Executive directly contradicted the findings of the technical reviews.

Emails clearly demonstrate EPA misrepresented pollution monitoring studies

1. The EPA has systematically misrepresented the findings of pollution monitoring studies and has acted to obscure the conclusion of the reports that coal trains cause a significant amount of particle pollution, with directly attributable impacts on community health.

2. ARTC appear to have been operating in breach of their licence conditions throughout 2012 and 2013. The objectives of their operating licence have not been addressed; their monitoring studies have been criticised, discredited and rejected by the NSW Government as inadequate. HCEC are seeking legal advice with a view to initiating action against ARTC for failure to adhere to the conditions of their licence.


Monitoring data shows significant increase in particle pollution

Pollution monitoring reports received by the NSW Environment Protection Authority during 2012 and 2013 demonstrated that uncovered coal wagons carrying coal to the Newcastle port cause a significant increase in particle pollution, but Environment Minister Robyn Parker and the EPA chair Barry Buffier made public statements that coal trains do not pollute and that the mining industry would not be required to cover coal wagons.

“There is no appreciable difference between the dust levels measured from the movement of loaded coal trains and other types of freight trains.”

“The EPA will not consider imposing additional requirements on industry, such as covering of coal loads, unless clear evidence becomes available which demonstrates the need for further studies or measures to control coal dust emissions from loaded coal trains.” 

“The first study did not identify elevated levels of coal dust”


Calls for parliamentary inquiry into EPA

EPA Chair and CEO Barry Buffier said the results provided by ARTC suggest that there is no appreciable difference between the dust levels measured from the movement of loaded coal trains and other types of freight trains; this is consistent in the draft and final report. The outcomes of this report are also generally consistent with the first monitoring report provided by ARTC in September 2012.This indicates that significant dust was not being generated from uncovered coal trains compared to other types of freight trains during the study.

The ARTC, a Commonwealth-owned corporation, is licenced by the NSW EPA for pollution caused by trains hauling coal from Hunter Valley mines to the Newcastle Port along the rail corridor for which ARTC holds a 60 year lease. Under the terms of their licence, the ARTC was required to monitor particle pollution adjacent to the rail corridor twice during 2012. Technical reviews of the company’s reports on this monitoring highlighted significant spikes in pollution as coal trains passed, and flaws in the methodology and data analysis.


Coal dust is a major problem that will get worse

Newcastle is the world’s largest coal port. More than 4,000,000 uncovered coal wagons pass through the city each year. This is set to increase by 50% if a proposed fourth coal terminal is approved. Particle pollution kills more Australians each year than car crashes.

Office of Environment and Heritage Technical Review (14/3/13): “Traces show a very strong relationship between train passage and a spike in air particles.”


Download the EPA email archives

Below are direct download links to the entire email archive in PDF format.

Download from Dropbox

Can download smaller PDF files (20Mb-40Mb each)

Direct Download Complete Archive

Suitable for high speed internet users (532Mb) (not mobile users)


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EPA conspires against community over Hunter Coal Dust

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We are a group of Australian citizens who are extremely concerned at the deep level of corruption occurring within the Australian mining sector.


  1. Thankyou for exposing this situation..our group Hawkesbury Environment Network [HEN] , an umbrella group of environmental organisations in the wider Hawkesbury region, is concerned at EPA integrity or lack of it, in relation to other situations down this way. EPA and other statutary bodies whose remit is to protect the environment and provide credible evidence-based information to the public, are coming under further erosion from corporate pressure. HEN can share this material on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HAWK.HEN.

  2. We are also deeply concerned about the integrity of the EPA and the NSW Environment Minister who has a history of lying about important issues. Minister Parker lied to ABC TV about arsenic testing for fish killed in the Macleay River. This was recorded in the NSW Green Media Release on 24th Oct 2011

    Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today called upon Environment Minister Robyn Parker to explain why she told ABC Television 7.30 program that testing on potentially poisoned fish had been conducted, when the Department of Primary Industries said no such testing has taken place.

    The 7.30 NSW program investigated mass fish kills in the Macleay River in northern NSW after a series of toxic spills from the Hillgrove Antimony mine near Armidale.

    “Has Minister Parker mislead the public when she said tests on the fish had been done and these tests showed no link to the toxic pollution incidents,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

    “Robyn Parker must explain the inconsistency between what she told ABC TV and the statement from the Department of Primary Industry that no tests had been conducted.

    “I wrote to the Environment Minister on the 28th of September asking her to investigate and test the dead fish that residents were concerned about and had kept in freezers. It appears no testing has been done despite enormous community concern and the risks to health and the closure of businesses.

    “Robyn Parker has either deliberately mislead the community, or bungled her Ministerial responsibilities, or possibly both.

    “Given plans to reopen the Hillgrove antimony mine and the proposal for a massive new antimony mine at one of the headwaters of the Clarence River, the government must assess and respond to the real and unacceptable risk of further contamination.”

  3. A nice tree? Well it certainly seems that between the Environment Minister Robyn Parker and the EPA a cover up of humungous proportions has been done on the fairly obvious pollution from the uncovered coal trains, I mean even your rusty old box trailer has to be covered if it contains sumthink that might blow out!! Its not the coal dust that worries me the most, nor the lying government representitives but the EPA. Eventually it is planned that the EPA is going to be a global type of entity, only answerable to themselves. They will have more power than governments and if you consider it they are involved in almost every facet of our existence. So basically whomever controls them indirectly controls everything. So what happens now, they are on the road to corruption same as our governments ?. I really like the old westerns where they just picked a nice tall tree…… PS. I might also add my local council (Midwestern) was also helped by the EPA to cover up corruption involving an asbestos scam! we’re going to need a big tree with lots of branches!

  4. From reading just the first down load… It certain seems clear that the EPA has been very accommodating of ARTC needs with regards to requirements and timing. This clearly is not what the community is to expect from a body that is there primarily to protect the environment and hence health of the community. It appears that there is indeed a lack of independence. The only conclusion is that there is collusion occurring. This is very wrong, and must be investigated and those responsible held to account.

  5. mal cliff says:

    EPA-CORRUPTION I just created a new petition and I hope you can sign — it’s called: EPA: Protect the publics interests not big corporations It is not just Australia I have friends in the US that say the EPA is protecting big business/politicians, its a global problem.

    Read more about it and sign it here:


  1. […] After obtaining thousands of government documents under freedom of information requests, the HCEC says that Parker was part of a systematic coverup of the evidence, and that her team drafted a press release […]

  2. […] Background briefing: GIPA inquiry demonstrates EPA misrepresented pollution monitoring studies […]

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