We were being lied to. Victorians still are

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Today in The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse, we talk about air pollution and cheating with air quality measurements.

Outraged by the recent Volkswagen and Exxon scandals, we take a look at local examples of scandalous emissions fraud and mismanagement which takes place – or has taken place – here in Victoria. The global “VW-gate” has been capturing headlines in the media, while our own, local “Hazelwood-gate” for some reason gets very little attention. And how about the alleged ‘Burnley car tunnel-gate’, the ‘Anglesea power plant’-gate, or the recent gas mining fugitive emissions ‘scientific’ report fraud scandal?

This is what occupies our minds in the Unsustainable Hour on 14 October 2015. Our interviewees expose how our common interests as citizens are not being looked after by those who are supposed to be protecting us. We need to put an end to the so-called ‘Protection’ Authorities and elected leaders in charge who quietly allow this pollution mismanagement to continue. It is time to speak up: Stop the floffing and clean the air!

We can’t let fossil fuel companies and authorities get away with their deception, manipulation and lies – at the cost of our health.


Listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 94:

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 LISTENER SERVICE 

Audio excerpts

from the 94th Sustainable Hour


‘Hazelwood-gate’


MP3 audio file

Latrobe Valley’s brown coal power stations is a ticking time-bomb containing the exact same story as what Volkswagen has been hit by: cheating, and ignoring the local community being polluted. Very nasty emissions do not even get measured there, according to what we hear today from our first-hand source who has requested to remain anonymous.

After the privatisation of the LaTrobe Valley fossil fuel electrical generation industry in the late 1990’s by the Kennett LNP Coalition State Government, private international investors took over, and from then on, it was all about profits. In the contract of sale was a ceiling price the new companies could charge for the electricity wholesale price.

Whilst the industry was still under government control, they monitored themselves and nothing out of the ordinary was ever reported. After privatisation, emission standards were set by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (www.epa.vic.goc.au), and the new private companies had to comply with these – or they would get fined and eventually they could face closure due to non-conformance.

Generators like Loy Yang 1 and 2 were doing okay as they were using relatively modern technologies and newer equipment, so they were meeting the EPA standards. The others – the older plants such as Hazelwood and Yallourn – were not able to comply to anywhere near the standards set.

Hazelwood was by far the worst, exceeding the limits set by the EPA by factors reaching 10 to 12 times the limits in SOX, NOX, CO and CO2. Yallourn was slightly better.

Another large issue was the emissions of the P4 and P10 particulates – ash particles 4 and 10 micron in size. These were – and still are – highly dangerous as they lodge in the air sacs of the lungs and cause cancer.

Hazelwood’s P4 and P10 emissions were extremely high, and they were ‘forced’ to install scrubbers and precipitators at a relatively high cost of around $80 millions. The installation program they negotiated was over a number of years. The inefficiencies after installation still did not allow them meet the EPA standards, so therefore the owners’ “negotiating strength” allowed them to continue to pollute at a level above the standards.

To reach the EPA emission standards would cost the generators hundreds of millions of dollars, and they were not going to commit to expenditure levels. They threaten to shut down, thus leaving Victoria short of electrical generation capacity. It was basically blackmail.

To this day, both Hazelwood and Yallourn still are permitted to discharge the pollutants above the EPA standards.



‘Burnley Tunnel-gate’


MP3 audio file

The Burnley tunnels were planned and constructed without thinking of how or where they were going to pump the toxic emissions from the car engines out of the tunnels. Eventually, points of extraction happened to fall right in the middle of densely populated residential areas in South Melbourne and Richmond.

The EPA set emission standards for the NOX, SOX, CO and CO2. The levels were strict as the discharges were going right in the middle of the residential areas. This lead to emissions higher than permitted during non-testing periods, so to meet the standards during peak hours, the volumes and level of extraction was reduced. In this way, the air near the residential areas would conform to the EPA regulations, but this off course created totally unhealthy atmosphere in the tunnels during peak hours.


Compromised report about gas mining’s fugitive emissions


MP3 audio file

In September 2014, The Sustainable Hour talked with physisist Alan Roberts from Nimbin Environment Centre about the so-called “scientific studies” which the government and the fracking industry had been refering to in the media. In particular one report by CSIRO was being referred to by the gas industry as scientific documentation to their claim that gas is cleaner than coal. According to Alan Roberts, this is not the case – because the measurements had been fudged with. Even CSIRO, a well-respected scientific Australian institution, can’t be trusted, he said:

“CSIRO is compromised. It is open to political compromise, unfortunately. It does a range of good work, but where the government ideology is involved, they are compomised.” Alan Roberts told us in September 2014.
“It’s full on from the Fossil Mafia”, he said.

» Listen to the full interview with Alan Roberts in The Sustainable Hour no 43

See also:

“Workers at Linc Energy’s experimental gas project in Queensland were told to cover-up gas leaks at the site, a court has heard.”
The Australian

The EHP case against Linc Energy for wilful environmental contamination, as reported in The Australian, shows some of the extent of a gas company’s bastardry.

» Read the story on www.theaustralian.com.au



Filmmaker Peter Yacono: ‘Our power’


MP3 audio file

Local filmmaker Peter Yacono has spent the past year documenting the harrowing struggles and heroic trumps of the Latrobe Valley residents, who are most affected by how Victorians choose to generate their power.

From activists, miners, station operators and the residents who suffered the devastating impacts of the Hazelwood fires, to Melbourne’s leading academics, Peter has captured unique and exclusive footage that must be shared with the world.

Inspiring and heartwarming, his film which will be ready in 2016, will show how Latrobe Valley residents and community leaders are uniting to move the Latrobe Valley, and the state towards a just and sustainable future.

Donate to the campaign and share the link with your friends, family and networks and help ensure that this powerful Australian story of hope, optimism and positive change gets the opportunity to inspire the world.

Our Power will be an inspiring and moving documentary about the necessity for a just transition towards sustainable modes of power production in Australia.

» www.ourpowerdoco.com


Andrew Laird: About floffing

Andrew Laird, a Melbourne-Anglesea-base lawyer, explained:

“A lot of floffing goes on – if I can use that term – whereby the polluters who basically want to keep polluting, or to minimise the amount of money that they need to spend to clean up their act, always talk about things such as a balance between protecting health and jobs, and so on and so forth. But I have certainly found that largely that is used in order to prevent meaningful action being taken.

At the end of the day I believe that our health is absolutely fundamental. In circumstances where the technology exists and is sufficiently mature to clean up emissions from things like coal-fired power plants, I can’t see any reason, both health-wise and environment-wise, why these polluters ought not be forced to clean up their act. They have been on notice that they create huge environmental and health-wise problems for a very long time. They ought to be forced to be put up or shut up.

We just need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. We are going to save the tax payer a lot of money if we do that, along with the huge environment- and health benefits that will flow.”
Andrew Laird in The Sustainable Hour


Is the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry, guilty of deliberately misleading the public for profit?
Yep!, writes Dana Nuccitelli in The Guardian:

» The Guardian – 29 September 2015:
Is the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry, guilty of racketeering?
Journalists investigated Exxon’s rejection of its own science to deceive the public. Scientists call for the Justice Department to investigate



In The Unsustainable Hour today, you also listened to:

► Merchants of Doubt

Merchants of Doubt: What Climate Deniers Learned from Big Tobacco

Published on youtube.com on 25 February 2015.


► MUSIC: How bad can I be

Published on youtube.com on 19 July 2013.


» vimeo.com


 LISTENER SERVICE 

Quotes, excerpts and links

…in relation to the 94th Sustainable Hour


Hazelwood-coal-ash

Environment Victoria wrote on 16 October 2015:
What do Hazelwood’s owners do when they spill 40,000 litres of coal ash?….they don’t tell anyone for two whole days.

On Tuesday 40,000 litres of coal ash were spilled at Hazelwood power station, but the incident was not reported to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) until Thursday.

That’s simply not good enough. The community deserves better, and in light of the continual and ongoing breaches of the community’s trust, you have to wonder whether the power station’s owners take their responsibility to the community and to our environment seriously?

Read the full story:

» ABC – 16 October 2015:
EPA investigating after Hazelwood Power Station operator ‘took two days’ to report ash spill



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Archaic regulations

“In the wake of the global Volkswagen emissions scandal, our country has overlooked a critical point. In contrast to other affected countries, the pollution from the “doctored” cars is not illegal here. Our archaic vehicle emission regulations have failed to keep pace with international standards, which have tightened in response to the known health impacts. Diesel is a class 1 carcinogen, in the same category as asbestos.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that more than 3000 Australians die each year from the effects of urban air pollution, including cardiac events, stroke and respiratory disease. Diesel has been banned outright in Paris from 2020 and London is likely to follow suit. We need to tighten our emission standards.”
Professor Lou Irving and Clare Walter, Carlton

Letter to the editor of The Age on 22 October 2015



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New air pollution standards: The good, the bad, and the weak

In December 2015, Australia’s nine environment ministers met to decide on new national air pollution standards for coarse particle (PM10) and fine particle (PM2.5) emissions.

Unfortunately, they adopted NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman’s weak proposal of standards for PM10  24 hour average (50 micrograms per cubic metre) and annual average concentrations (25ug/m3).  

Victorian minister Lisa Neville promised that Victoria would commit to stricter PM10 standards and the Australian Capital Territory joined her.  South Australia may join.

Commonwealth Environment Minister Greg Hunt who pledged ‘clean air is a signature objective of my watch’ was entirely silent on the matter of the new standards.

The new standards are a positive outcome from an otherwise bland meeting, which would not have occurred without the effort you made to make your voice heard on air pollution.

Since the ministers’ meeting, our team has been busy. We have:

  • Analysed air pollution data from NSW – and found a pattern of non-compliance with these new standards.
  • Attempted to obtain 2015 air pollution data Queensland and Victoria – not an easy task.
  • Written to Australia’s environment ministers urging them to fully implement the new standards by revising pollution licences, monitoring air pollution, making data freely available, and ensuring compliance with the new standards.
  • Prepared fact sheets to show how EJA can assist with legal support in a number of hotspot communities.

At a time when we’re seeing a reappearance of deadly Black Lung Disease among coal miners, it’s clear that self monitoring by industry just won’t work.

There’s a lot of work to do but, like you, we’re committed to the goal of achieving clean, healthy air for all Australians.  

Yours for clean air

Phil Hill
Clean Air Lawyer, Environmental Justice Australia

Dr James Whelan
Researcher, Environmental Justice Australia

Please Act on Air Pollution

AIR POLLUTION: “Headaches. Runny nose. Stinging, sore eyes.”…“This can’t be good.”…
Check out this hard hitting new video about living with air pollution. The video was produced in the lead-up to when environment ministers were to meet in Canberra on 15 December 2015 to announce new air pollution standards.



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petition_greenpeaceVW560

Volkswagen tricked us. Now they should treat us.

“The VW emissions scandal revealed just how dirty our cars really are. They poison our air and warm our climate. But this nasty trick could be a turning point, a chance for companies to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels and invest in greener alternatives,” writes Greenpeace UK:

“Now is the time to convince VW and the government to invest in electric cars and demand an end to dangerously polluted air. We’ve got some exciting things planned, but we need your help to make them happen.

» Donate what you can to kickstart a transport revolution to reduce air pollution:
www.secure.greenpeace.org.uk/VWshareandsupport

» Sign the [UK] petition to tell VW and the government to take action now.”





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» Australian Financial Review – 19 October 2015:
Big polluters dodge carbon reductions, report finds



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Politicians’ doublespeak and betrayal:

New coal licenses in Victoria

» Commentary and letter-writing: Yet another exploration licence for coal? It feels like betrayal

Drill, baby, drill!

Recently, the Labor party teamed up with the Liberal and Nationals to kill the Greens’ bill to give land holders the right to say no to onshore gas mining on their land. How disgraceful is that?

» Senate kills bill letting owners say no to CSG on their land



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PaulFlynn-coal-quote560

Corporate deception: “Coal is clean”

“Coal is clean. If you look at the fossil fuels industry as a whole it has absolutely made life better for everybody. The air is better, the water’s better, there’s no doubt that everything’s better when you’ve got plentiful, cheap energy.”
Paul Flynn, CEO of Whitehaven Coal, in a talk to mine suppliers in Sydney, Australia

Read more and listen to audio excerpts:

» ABC Rural – 2 October 2015:
Whitehaven Coal CEO calls for industry to make case for fossil fuel as farmers pressure Future Fund to divest mining assets

 

“Worthy goal”

“Coal is the world’s leading source of electricity (Comment, 21/10). Improving the quality of life of people in the developing world by getting them on to a mainstream grid is a worthy goal. Australia can help by supplying high-quality black coal to fuel the modern power stations that India will be mandating from 2017. At least 830million people in the developing world gained access to electricity for the first time between 1990 and 2015 due to coal-fired power, and there will be hundreds of millions more over the next 25 years.”
Brett Hogan, Institute of Public Affairs, in a letter to the editor of The Age on 22 October 2015

“To apply pressure on financial institutions, to disrupt the business and financing of companies, is just absolutely disgraceful. It’s selfish, it’s short-term, and quite frankly I’d like to think they have better things to do but they probably don’t.”
Anthony Roberts, NSW minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, speaking at a luncheon for the Centre for Economic Development in Australia


Coal is clean?

“Who is the fossil fuel industry kidding?”
350.org Australia, in a comment on Facebook


If you are in any doubt over the absurd and opportunistic claims that Australia has a “moral” duty to export thermal coal you won’t after reading this excellent Saturday Paper analysis.

The absurdity of the government’s disregard for the people and subservience to the fossil fuel industry laid bare:

“The influence of the coal lobby on the government will end up costing Australia billions of dollars because of the delays in acting on climate change and pollution,” says Ian Dunlop, a former oil, gas and coal industry executive and was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. A quarter-century ago, before he became convinced of the threat posed by climate change, he was chairman of the Australian Coal Association.

“Coal is part of the problem, not the solution to it, and talk of a moral imperative to send them more is mealy-mouthed. It’s about money. But even on that score, the experts tell us, coal fails. Not just in India; everywhere.”

When you add up all these so-called ‘externalities’, “you find that the real cost makes coal uneconomic,” says George Crisp, West Australian chairman of Doctors for the Environment Australia.

A study done 2009 by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering estimated the health costs resulting from pollutants emitted by coal-fired power stations at $2.6 billion per year.

They calculated that per megawatt hour, the externalities added $42 per megawatt hour to black coal, $52 to brown coal and $19 for gas. So the true cost of fossil fuel generation was about double the wholesale price of it.

“There was a study done in greater metropolitan Sydney in 2005 looking at the air pollution costs, at about $4.7 billion per year in notional lost lives. About 50 per cent of that was attributed to coal-fired electricity.”

Read the article by Mike Seccombe in The Saturday Paper of 24 October 2015:

» www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au


computer-energy-then-n560

Ever wondered how come the world hasn’t transitioned to cleaner and in the long run cheaper and better energy sources than fossil fuels long ago? Welcome to Exxon-gate!



“It may be hard to accept, but a single company may have set back all of humanity. Had Exxon Mobil listened to its own scientists rather than spread disinformation on climate change, the world might not have wasted three crucial decades during which global warming went from a prediction to a fact.” 
Naomi Oreskes and Rep. Ted Lieu in The Hill: ‘The harm Exxon Mobil has done’

Exxon-gate

ExxonMobil has become infamous for its secretive anti-climate science campaign, having spent $30 million funding groups denying the scientific evidence and consensus on human-caused global warming.

This is not just one more set of sad stories about our climate. This investigative research – two investigations undertaken by Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News – needs to really be read.

ExxonMobil could have changed history for the better – and they didn’t.

“Knowingly, they helped organise the most consequential lie in human history, and kept that lie going past the point where we can protect the poles, prevent the acidification of the oceans, or slow sea level rise enough to save the most vulnerable regions and cultures.”

“Exxon knew all that there was to know about climate change decades ago, and instead of alerting the rest of us denied the science and obstructed the politics of global warming.”

“We might actually have done something as a world before the Arctic melted, before the coral reefs were bleached, before the cycles of drought and flood set fully in. Instead, their silence and their lies—driven by nothing more than the desire to keep making money—helped disrupt the earth’s most critical systems. When people ask, how could our species have wrecked our planet, the memos and internal documents uncovered by these reporters offer a huge part of the answer. We wrecked the planet, in no small part, because we were lied to by the most powerful institutions on that planet.

“To understand the treachery – the sheer, profound, and I think unparalleled evil – of Exxon, one must remember the timing.”
~ Bill McKibben, American author

» www.exxonknew.tumblr.com

» New Republic – 16 October 2015:
Democrats Request a DOJ Investigation Into ExxonMobil, Alleging Climate Science Coverup
“…the company’s behavior ‘is similar to cigarette companies that repeatedly denied harm from tobacco and spread uncertainty and misleading information to the public’.”

» The Guardian – 14 October 2015:
Exxon’s climate lie: ‘No corporation has ever done anything this big or bad’
“The truth of Exxon’s complicity in global warming must to be told – how they knew about climate change decades ago but chose to help kill our planet”
Article by Bill McKibben


exxon-lied

Petition
Exxon knew about climate change, and instead of acting, they spent decades lying to the American public and delaying action. Sign and share to tell the Department of Justice to prosecute Exxon: bit.ly/ArrestExxon



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VW-gate

The car emissions scandal so far has backfired and now not only shakes the entire car industry, where Mercedes, BMW and Peugeot are being accused of using similar trick. Some Mercedes, BMW and Peugeot models are consuming around 50% more fuel than official results, a new study reveals. But it also shakes investors, academics, and even the medical sector. All are beginning to hire lawyers and start their internal battles over who cheated who and how much.

The lasting effect from the Volkswagen scandal is that Europe’s so-called ‘clean diesel’ strategy is now dead. There IS no clean diesel, just like there IS no clean coal, or clean gas, for that matter.

Quotes about the rigged car emissions tests
“The claims of the car industry that they are making a disproportionate effort to reduce emissions compared to other sectors is fiction. Since 2012 the average emissions of new cars driven on the road have increased…”
“The system of testing cars to measure fuel economy and CO2 emissions is utterly discredited. The gap between test results and real-world performance has become a chasm, increasing from 8% in 2001 to 31% in 2012 and 40% in 2014.”
Quotes from the report ‘Mind the Gap’

Volkswagen scandal reveals culture of regulation without enforcement
The story behind the discovery of Volkswagen’s cheating of emission standards illustrates a far broader problem extending to other car makers and even extends beyond cars to fridges and home construction.
Tristan Edis

What to do about car makers gaming emission tests
The group that exposed Volkswagen’s emissions cheating believes that a variety of tricks and loopholes in lab testing will allow car makers to eventually make their emissions look 50% lower than real world performance unless governments crack down.
Peter Mock

In 2008, the EU introduced stricter rules for CO2 emissions for cars. But instead of more efficient cars, manufacturers have increasingly manipulated the tests. This means that the progress you thought the cars had reached, is almost nonexistent. The Europeans thought they were approaching the EU target for car CO2 emissions in 2020, but now it turns out to be far from.

This is what the report ‘Mind the Gap’ shows:

» www.transportenvironment.org (PDF)

» Read more about How they cheat



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Corporate influence undermines climate policy progress

Calls for fossil fuel companies to be cut out of climate negotiations

In a desperate bid to remain relevant in a world on the clean energy transition, the world’s largest polluters are peddling misleading fossil fuel demand scenarios, according to a new report from Carbon Tracker. Fossil companies have put on a dog and pony show recently about being part of the solution to climate change recently, but a report from InfluenceMap shows they have no real intention to walk the talk towards one.

Such firms are no doubt happy to have their brands associated with climate action through COP21 sponsorship, but there is a growing awareness that corporate influence is undermining climate policy progress, and Corporate Accountability International is calling for fossils to be kicked out of the UNFCCC negotiations. Fortunes are fading as divestment shines light on stranded assets to be, more coal plants are being cancelled than built, and a perfect storm of market volatility, decline, and concerns about climate change, the environment and health is preparing to break. Coal companies are staring into the abyss of bankruptcy, with environmentalists ready to acquire and shut down their businesses. Governments are following suit, with the US, France and the UK leading the G7 charge away from coal. As the gap between the firms’ branding, behaviour, and the damage they cause ever clearer, their logos may be on the COP21 pavilions, but the writing is certainly on the wall for fossils.

» The Tree



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Cancer-causing chemicals

Chemical corporation DuPont manufactured Teflon with a dangerous, cancer-causing component called C8, and sold it to millions of people for decades.

» www.theintercept.com



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Why have thousands of trees dropped dead?

death-of-a-landscape

Within an area of 2,000 square kilometres, almost every Ribbon Gum is either dead or showing signs of severe stress and dieback, with thinning crowns full of dead branches.

» The Conversation:
Death of a landscape: why have thousands of trees dropped dead in New South Wales?



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‘This is how people power saved the Arctic from Shell’
Published on youtube.com on 16 October 2015.



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National Air Pollution Summit | Melbourne

14 November 2015

The National Air Pollution Summit is an opportunity for clean air advocates, community groups and government representatives to share experiences, sharpen the analysis of the issues and plan for cooperative action.
We warmly invite you and organisation to participate.

In air pollution hotspots around Australia, communities are suffering the brunt of air pollution that is poorly regulated and increasing year by year.

Environment ministers are expected to adopt new standards this December. But with polluters resisting regulation and stricter standards, what are the prospects for decisive action and where are the key opportunities for non-government groups’ influence?

The National Air Pollution Clean Air Summit will include panels and small group discussions on:
• The health impacts of air pollution
• Community campaigns in pollution-affected areas
• Air pollution laws and policies, including the proposed new standards for particle pollution
• The case for a national Air Pollution Prevention Act and a regulator to enforce it

On Friday afternoon 13 November 2015, community advocates and nongovernment group representatives will discuss opportunities to work together for stronger air pollution regulation and enforcement. Our suggestions will be brought to the Summit for consideration and action planning.

Confirmed speakers include:
Dr Ben Ewald – Doctors for the Environment Australia
Fiona Armstrong – Climate and Health Alliance
Clare Walter – Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Dr Dorothy Robinson – Australian Air Quality Group
Michael Kane – Clean Air Queensland
Patricia Julien – Mackay Conservation Group
Dr James Whelan – Environmental Justice Australia
Philip Hill – Environmental Justice Australia

When:
Saturday 14 November 2015. Registration from 8.30am for a 9am start – to 5pm

Where:
Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, 210 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne www.qvwc.org.au

Registration:
$50 (government, industry and large NGOs) or $25 (individuals and small NGOs)

Register online at:
www.envirojustice.org.au

Travel subsidies: A limited number of travel subsidies available for self-funding interstate participants. Billeting can also be arranged on request.



See also:

» Sydney Morning Herald – 31 December 2015:
Sydney air pollution exceeds national standards, NSW Environmental Protection Authority report shows



UPDATE ON 15 DECEMBER 2015

New air pollution limits don’t protect us

“Politicians care more about the needs of the coal lobby than our health,” wrote Phil Hill and James Whelan from Environmental Justice Australia in a newsletter on 15 December:

“We’ve just heard that environment ministers from around Australia have announced weak new limits on particle pollution. This will do little to protect our health.

With at least 3000 Australians every year dying preventable deaths from air pollution, this just isn’t good enough. It shows that politicians care more about the needs of the coal lobby than our health.

This announcement makes it clear that our regulatory system is broken. Just look at PM10, the larger of the dangerous particles considered. The science is clear that exposure to PM10 causes a range of respiratory illnesses. Environment ministers were advised by health experts, including the World Health Organisation, to adopt an annual average standard of 12, 16 or 20 micrograms per cubic metre – but today they’ve announced a much higher limit of 25!

It’s becoming more and more clear that the federal government needs to show real leadership, step in and take air pollution limits out of the hands of the states. It’s time for a National Air Pollution Act – add your voice to the call.”
Phil Hill and James Whelan, Environmental Justice Australia





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