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.
EPA Chair Barry Buffier (12/6/13)
“There is no appreciable difference between the dust levels measured from the movement of loaded coal trains and other types of freight trains.”
EPA Chair Barry Buffier (1/6/13)
“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.”
Environment Minister Robyn Parker (2/4/13)
“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.
Can download smaller PDF files (20Mb-40Mb each)
Suitable for high speed internet users (532Mb) (not mobile users)
Dr James Whelan 0431 150 928