ALLEGATIONS that the Environment Protection Authority covered up crucial information about the extent of coal dust pollution in the Hunter will be investigated by a parliamentary inquiry.
The upper house inquiry was welcomed by the Hunter’s environment groups, which have consistently accused the authority of working to protect polluters rather than community health.
The inquiry into the EPA’s culture and performance will also investigate land contamination issues at Botany and ground water contamination at the Santos coal seam gas project in the Pilliga.
“For the communities of the Hunter, this inquiry is a small but long overdue victory,” Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesman John MacKenzie said.
“This inquiry is also vital for restoring community confidence in the EPA, given that its performance in recent years has fallen well shy of community expectations, especially on coal dust pollution.”
Labor environment spokesman Luke Foley, who initiated the inquiry, previously referred complaints about the alleged covering up of information about coal dust pollution along the Hunter’s coal corridor to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Dr MacKenzie said a proven link existed between particulate pollution from trains and coal stockpiles and health problems in vulnerable individuals.
“Residents, environmentalists and the coal industry all agree on this. It is only the NSW EPA that has been standing in the way of air pollution regulation that would improve community health,” Dr MacKenzie said.
NSW Environment Protection Authority chair and chief executive Barry Buffier welcomed the inquiry.
He said it gave the opportunity to increase public awareness and understanding about the role of the EPA in protecting the state’s communities and environment.