Media release

Air pollution announcement ensures business as usual for polluters

December 15, 2015


Environmental Justice Australia has slammed today’s announcement of particle pollution limits by the environment ministers from around Australia.

“With air pollution responsible for at least 3000 deaths each year in Australia, this response is simply not good enough. It does nothing to protect our health. It simply bows to the pressure created by the mining industry who put profits ahead of the health of communities struggling with air pollution” said Environmental Justice Australia CEO and lawyer Brendan Sydes.

“The process can best be described as a ‘race to the bottom’ – the outcome reflects the position of the minister least in favour of pollution control. In this case, NSW environment minister Mark Speakman,” said Mr Sydes.

“Australians needed strong action to limit the source of dangerous particle pollution. Instead, we got weak regulation that ensures the big polluters can continue with business as usual.” Mr Sydes continued.

“The ministers have signed off on a national Clean Air Agreement that fails to curb emissions from the nation’s most significant polluters – coal mines, uncovered coal trains and export terminals, coal-fired power stations, wood heaters and motor vehicles. The agreement is simply a collection of the inadequate programs that states already have in place.” said Mr Sydes.

“NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman pushed hard for the least strict standards, including an annual PM10 standard that is less strict than any of the options proposed for consideration (25ug/m3 – the three options assessed in the Impact Statement were 12, 16 and 20ug/m3). This means coal mines – the major source of PM10 – will continue to operate under licence conditions that permit higher levels of dangerous air pollution than recommended by the World Health Organisation and other countries.” said Dr James Whelan, researcher at Environmental Justice Australia.

“Coal mines are the nation’s single greatest source of PM10. Emissions from coal mines doubled in the last 5 years and trebled in the last decade, currently standing at 438,000 tonnes each year.” said Dr Whelan.

“This lousy decision squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reduce air pollution in Australia. The environment ministers have demonstrated without a doubt that the current system for air pollution control is broken and needs to be replaced.” said Mr Sydes.

“What we need now is strong national leadership by the Commonwealth government and Greg Hunt to develop national laws that drive real improvement in standards to protect our health.” concluded Mr Sydes.

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