The proposed Rocky Hill coal mine will increase coarse particle (PM10) and fine particle (PM2.5) pollution in nearby residential areas. The mine should not be approved by the NSW Government.
Unsafe levels of particle pollution
Small particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Particle pollution contributes to the premature deaths of more than 3,000 in Australians each year. It causes toxic effects, cancer, infection, respiratory symptoms, asthma and premature death. There is no safe level of exposure to particle pollution.
Coal mines are Australia’s leading source of particle pollution, accounting for more than 90% of coarse particle (PM10) pollution in coal mining regions like the Hunter Valley. The particle pollution reported by coal mines doubled in the last five years and trebled in the last decade.
Even without the proposed coal mine, Gloucester’s coarse particle (PM10) concentrations already exceed the national standard of 50μg/m3 at Waukivory Road (site GA01) and Fairburns Road (Table 4.20, p.4-69). The EIS attributes these exceedances to bushfire. Bushfires cannot readily be prevented, so in locations that experience high concentrations of PM10 it is essential to regulate and/or polluters such as coal mines.
Gloucester also experiences annual fine particle (PM2.5) concentrations that are as high as the long-term national standard of 7μg/m3. The EIS estimates annual average PM2.5 levels are currently between 3-7μg/m3 at locations near the proposed coal mine (p.4-71). Since May 2011, the national standard for 24-hour average PM2.5 concentrations (25μg/m3) has been exceeded six times at Jacks Road (North TEOM) and seven times at Fairburns Road (South TEOM).
Outdated air pollution standards
In December 2015, Australia’s nine environment ministers agreed to new national standards for coarse and fine particle pollution. The Rocky Hill EIS, however, refers to the advisory guidelines that were previously used by the NSW Government. The difference is shown in the table below. The new, stricter, national standards are already exceeded near Gloucester, even without the Rocky Hill coal mine.
24 hour average
24 hour average
National standards agreed by Environment Ministers December 2015
25μg/m3 in 2016 20μg/m3 in 2026
8μg/m3 in 2016 7 μg/m3 by 2026
Guidelines referred to in the Rocky Hill EIS
Too close to residential areas
Particle pollution can travel long distances before settling. The proposed coal mine is just 1800 metres upwind of the closest residential areas that include more than 100 homes in new housing estates. The Gloucester High School, hospital and town centre are less than 5km downwind. Open cut coal mines are not generally proposed, let alone approved, so close to residential areas in the developed world.
No independent air pollution monitoring
How will Gloucester community members be informed of pollution levels in the air they breathe? In the Hunter Valley, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage operates a network of 14 air pollution monitoring stations. Data from this network can be downloaded instantly by community members. People can also subscribe to receive air pollution alerts by SMS or email when any pollutant exceeds the national standard. But there is no independent air pollution monitoring in or near Gloucester, and none is proposed.
The NSW Government will argue that the national air pollution standards do not apply in Gloucester. Technically, the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure only applies to communities of 25,000 or more. With a population of less than 2,500, Gloucester is not entitled to air pollution monitoring, the application of national pollution standards or the right to know what we breath.
People living near coal mines in the Namoi region of North West New South Wales only have access to air pollution monitoring undertaken by the coal mining industry. It can take up to two months to be published, is not audited by the EPA and has been found to be false and misleading.
No guarantee that pollution prevention measures will be implemented
Companies that propose coal mines invariably promise ‘Best Practice’ measures to control coal dust. In the Rocky Hill EIS, Gloucester Resources Ltd propose to limit soil excavation during windy periods (p.4-74), delay blasts “if unfavourable weather prevails” and “minimise drop heights” when unloading material”. When communities seek to enforce these practices during the operation of coal mines, the NSW EPA responds that the required dust control measures depend on the circumstances. The EPA will not enforce commitments made in EISs.
In other parts of New South Wales, people living in communities near coal mines are exposed to blast fumes containing toxic oxides of nitrogen. A farmer near Narrabri was hospitalised earlier this year when we was exposed to blast fumes. The EPA was slow to respond and the coal mine has not been prosecuted.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Over the 21-year life of the mine, Rocky Hill will be responsible for at least 38 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. To offset these emissions, the company would need to plant and maintain 23 million trees.
For further information, contact Dr James Whelan 0431 150 928 / James.Whelan@envirojustice.org.au
Subscribe to our free monthly email bulletin: http://cleanairaction.net.au
2. National Pollutant Inventory http://www.npi.gov.au
3. Rocky Hill EIS Section 4.4 ‘Air Quality’, Table 4.21, p.4-73
5. Rocky Hill EIS Section 4.4.11, p.4-106
6. Wambo, August 2014: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-08/wambo-coal-fined-over-noxious-blast/5657114; Muswellbrook, February 2014: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/mine-blast-gone-wrong-spews-toxic-cloud-20140221-335rf.html
Special Screening at Fay’s Twin Cinema
Monday, 7 December 2015 6:30PM – 8:46PM
Milligan St & Oxley St., Taree, NSW,
$20.00 ticket price
bookings online at https://www.tugg.com/events/76594
One Mining Company, a 965 day blockade, over 300 voluntary arrests, a State Forest home to 396 Species of native fauna and flora, 34 of which are endangered. What is this all about?
Told in a collective narrative of first person accounts with characters that thread throughout the film. Black Hole
is told over the period from 2013 to the present moment.
The stakes are high; water security, agricultural land, endangered flora, fauna and significant indigenous cultural sites. We meet key figures in the establishment of the campaign against the mine and their overview sets the tone.
After 560 days embedded in the forest, the now growing number of campaigners are given a move on order by local council. Local farmer Cliff Wallace invites the blockade onto his farm called ‘Wando’. Cliff knows what’s at risk and the impact of how a coal mine can change the fabric of a once quiet community.
The intensity of FLAC’s ongoing civil disobedience is in contrast with the ways of the Gomeroi Indigenous Community. The Gomeroi battle Whitehaven Coal through ongoing court actions and political lobbying. Their plight of being denied access to country has fractured the Gomeroi nation.
The grief and loss that we see of the Gomeroi, farmers, locals and campaigners does not diminish an ultimately successful campaign. It becomes greater than saving the Leard State Forest. The birth of a divestment campaign has created a movement that questions our addiction to coal and continual approval by State and Federal Governments in allowing the construction of greenfield coal mines in Australia.
examines the future of coal, corporate responsibility and the rights governments afford to people vs polluters.
Congratulations to Julie Lyford, Chair of Groundswell Gloucester. Julie was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the Queens Birthday Honours, for services to local government and the community.
Well deserved recognition for a committed and seasoned campaigner for community justice and democracy.
Excellent work Julie!
(It is also encouraging to believe that Her Majesty the Queen may now be aware of the threats to Gloucester!).
For years, local communities in Northern NSW have been fighting AGL to protect the rivers and farmland of Gloucester from coal seam gas mining. This could be our chance to stop fracking in Gloucester forever.
When AGL’s new CEO Andrew Vesey started in February this year, GetUp members and our allies at Lock the Gate, Groundswell Gloucester, and Land Water Future were ready with a welcome message. Together, we greeted Mr Vesey with a 20,000 strong petition asking him to shut down AGL’s coal seam gas operations in Gloucester.
A few days later Vesey announced a comprehensive review into all of AGL’s CSG mining. A sign that he was was feeling the pressure from communities concerned about the unacceptable threat that coal seam gas mining poses to our prime agricultural land and our water.
This week, AGL announced they will extend the period to decide the fate of the project.1 Which means we now have six months to convince Mr Vesey to protect Gloucester from the dangers of CSG once and for all.
AGL’s Gloucester project has been a disaster right from the start. AGL have dumped tainted coal seam gas water from Gloucester into Newcastle’s water network despite being denied permission from Hunter Water.2 Large fluctuations in groundwater levels have been detected near their wells.3 They even had their licence temporarily suspended after hazardous BTEX chemicals were detected in two wells.4
But, despite all this, the NSW Government has given AGL the all clear to continue operations, and this week AGL announced they’ll be restarting the pilot wells in Gloucester. This means they’ll spend the next six months drilling in these four accident-prone wells to determine whether to open up a field of one hundred and ten wells.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for Gloucester or the future of CSG mining in NSW. One leading analyst at Citi has already said, “It’s not worth risking AGL’s brand for a Gloucester development.”5 Simply put, the project is on the ropes. Right now, Mr Vesey is frantically trying to work out whether the strength of our opposition is strong enough to abandon the project.
Over 30,000 GetUp members have already called on Mr Vesey to shut AGL’s Gloucester project down, including 9091 AGL customers, 772 shareholders and 165 AGL employees.
That’s right – even people who receive a paycheck from AGL appreciate that the company’s desire for profit shouldn’t come before the protection of land and water that’s crucial for the future food security of all Australians.
We know it won’t be an easy fight – the coal seam gas industry has done an excellent job of staffing their industry with well-connected policy-makers. Earlier this week a Sydney Morning Herald investigation revealed the disturbing number of former politicians from Labor, Liberal and National parties who now work on behalf of the big coal seam gas companies.6
It’s time to let AGL and the NSW government know we want them to shut down CSG.
Thanks for all that you do,
Adam and Sam R, for the GetUp team
P.S. Once you sign the petition, you can take the next step by switching your energy provider away from AGL to our partner, Powershop. 11,000 GetUp members have already switched, and Credit Suisse has found that if 30,000 people switch their power away from AGL, it would cost the company $100 million.7 Taking your custom away from AGL helps to drive home the message that as long as they continue their CSG activities in NSW, not only will they lose the PR battle, but also their profits and customers too. Sign the petition and then learn more about switching here: www.getup.org.au/nofracking
 AGL releases ‘roadmap’ to energy sustainability, ABC, 26 May 2015.
 EPA investigation into discharge of treated flow back water into Hunter Water sewer network, Hunter Water media release, 22 January 2015.
 Shifting ground water levels add to AGL’s CSG doubts, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 January 2015.
 AGL faces delays, additional conditions after BTEX chemicals detected, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 2015.
 Upstream gas restructure, a material prize worth chasing, Citiresearch, 18 February 2015.
 Industry snaps up staff with top connections, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 May 2015.
 Credit Suisse analysis, July 2014; Credit Suisse Research and Analytics, AGL Energy – I can see clearly now, 19 March 2015; Citi Research, 18 February 2015.
GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you’d like to contribute to help fund GetUp’s work, please donate now! To unsubscribe from GetUp, please click here.
Our team acknowledges that we meet and work on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We wish to pay respect to their Elders – past, present and future – and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.
Authorised by Sam Mclean, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.
Just a reminder about our forthcoming meeting next Thursday 28th May starting at 6.30pm at the Uniting Church Auditorium in Albert Street, Taree.
Mr Brendan Guiney, Acting General Manager of Mid Coast Water, will speak to our group about the organisation’s Our Water Our Future project. This is an open meeting, so the general public is welcome to attend. The Mayor and Councillors of Greater Taree have been invited to join us.
Mid Coast Water is reviewing their long term strategy for water resources in our region and they want the community to join the conversation about water. They want to know what it means to us all, and what we think are the important issues for the future.
The talk will include a powerpoint presentation and there will be an opportunity for questions afterwards.
Please come along and bring your friends and family too. Our water is important to all of us.
Secretary, MCWAG Inc.