Big cuts in coal mine and air pollution are achievable

Will you Join our Twitter team to build pressure on Australia’s environment ministers?

Pat Murphy’s farm is right beside the Maules Creek coal mine near Gunnedah in New South Wales. The mine commenced operation in December 2014. Starting at 6 million tonnes per annum in December 2014, Whitehaven Pty Ltd’s mine will double production over three years to 13Mtpa making it one of Australia’s largest open cut mines.

The mine is opposed by farmers, environmentalists and the Gomoroi Traditional Owners.

Pat and his neighbours live with excessive dust and noise pollution. For months, Pat has been forced to take time out of farming duties to engage with government departments, parliamentarians and the company in an attempt to strengthen the mine’s licence conditions. His requests are modest and reasonable: wind monitoring to ensure blasting doesn’t happen when the wind blows towards his house, best practice dust management and the enforcement of the national particle pollution standards. But he has been stymied at every turn. Only delays and buck-passing so far.

Pat’s dilemma highlights some of the problems with the national approach to air pollution. Although we adopted national air pollution standards in 1998, Australian states and territories are left to their own devices when it comes to implementation. And they have failed to comply with the standards. In air pollution ‘hot spots’ like Pat’s farm, the Latrobe Valley and inner city Melbourne there is inadequate monitoring and – when pollution levels exceed the national standard - there is little or no enforcement. State governments are reluctant, as Pat observes, to impose licence conditions to protect the community from elevated and harmful levels of air pollution.

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Photo: Pat Murphy’s four daughters live just metres from the Maules Creek open cut mine.

At the national Air Pollution Summit on Saturday, delegates planned the next steps in our campaign for stricter standards, a national Air Pollution Control Act and a regulator to enforce it. The summit came just weeks before Australia’s nine environment ministers meet on Thursday 15 December to lock in new particle pollution standards and a national ‘clean air agreement. EJA has been highly critical of the options on the table for both these policies, and we’ve supported thousands of people to communicate directly with ministers, calling for stronger action.

There’s an important opportunity right now to strengthen Australia’s air pollution laws. We’re seeking 20-30 people to be part of a Twitter team. Can you commit to spending 5-10 minutes every day or two to Tweet (or Facebook message) about air pollution? You don’t need to be an air quality expert. It can be as easy as ‘retweeting’, favouriting, liking or sharing.

 Please contact us if you’re up for this mission.

 In the meantime, just go here and click on your preferred Tweet

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