Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon will be campaigning on the ground in the Hunter today urging local Federal MPs to put their support behind a Senate inquiry into the impact of the coal mining, coal rail infrastructure and coal export industry on air quality and public health. A Greens motion to establish this Inquiry is due to be voted on in the Senate on 21 November 2012.
Senator Rhiannon will visit Maitland and Newcastle, meeting with concerned locals and urging residents to contact their federal MPs to support the Inquiry.
Senator Rhiannon said "The health risks of coal dust are becoming so clear that MPs of all stripes are going on the record with their concerns. Let's turn this concern into cross-party action.
"I am in the Hunter today urging local federal MPs Sharon Grierson, Joel Fitzgibbon, Greg Combet, Bob Baldwin and Jill Hall to get on board and support this inquiry.
"The federal government, through the Australian Rail Track Corporation, plan to put $3.5 billion into coal rail infrastructure and have handed 'Major Project Facilitation' status to the proposed T4 coal terminal. Federal MPs can no longer pass the buck to the NSW government.
"People living in Newcastle and the Hunter have had to bear the health burden of the coal industry for many years. Enough is enough for the sake of local health.
"New coal infrastructure, including the proposed fourth coal loader, should be put on hold until this inquiry is held and then reassessed in light of the findings," Senator Rhiannon said.
Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne said "The residents of Newcastle deserve better as do the more than 23,000 Hunter school students who spend their lunchtimes within 500 metres of the Hunter's coal rail corridor.
"There must be a comprehensive human health impact assessment into the current coal operations before any intensification is allowed to occur.
"The State Government has failed the people of Newcastle and that's why our local Federal MPs should be supporting the proposed Senate Inquiry.
Maitland Greens Convenor Jan Davis said "Uncovered coal trains rumble from one side of Maitland to the other at all times of day and night and this will only get worse if T4 goes ahead.
"There are days when we can see the dust blowing through the town but there is no air quality monitoring station to record this. Fourteen air quality monitoring stations spread through the Hunter Valley is not good enough.
"We need real time air pollution warnings to know when the hazardous spikes are - knowing after the fact is too late.
"My local MP Joel Fitzgibbon has publicly acknowledged local health concerns and I hope he will put his weight behind this Senate Inquiry."
The Australian Greens motion for a full Senate inquiry into the air quality and public health impacts of the Hunter Valley coal rail, mining and export industry and the proposed T4 coal loader is here: http://lee-rhiannon.greensmps.org.au/content/motions/motion-hunter-inqui...