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Issue #1644      June 25, 2014

Editorial

Polluters’ open slather

The major parties need to state clearly their position on bringing to an end the use of dirty brown coal for power generation, and a permanent ban on Coal Seam Gas (fracking). They must do this prior to their next state elections due shortly along the eastern states. The Victorian government has banned fracking until 2015, after the state elections to be held later this year. Not surprisingly, the public is concerned about major political parties changing their policy after the elections. LNP members in the NSW state government are rightfully concerned about the outstanding campaign conducted by Lock the Gate organisation. LNP members are keeping a very low profile on fracking; after the elections is another matter.

The NSW government was exposed for their failure to uphold the law against Whitehaven Coal in relation to the Maules Creek coal mine. The Lock the Gate organisation had to take legal action in the Land and Environment Court seeking an urgent stay of execution for Leard State Forest. The company had tried to change the rules to allow clearing in winter and spring – a time when hibernating animals were likely be slaughtered by the bulldozers. Faced with an almost certain defeat, Whitehaven Coal made an undertaking to the court to cease all clearing until a full hearing on the case in early September.

Uncontrolled mining will change our rural communities forever and threaten their future viability. It will put our water resources at risk and damage our food security. Coal and unconventional gas licences and applications now cover more than 50 percent of Australia. The richest farmlands from the Darling Downs to the Kimberley are up for grabs by the mining companies.

Science shows that brown coal and fracking are hazardous to human health.

Major political parties know or should know that when burning brown coal in power stations, the toxic dust and fumes cause cancer. They should also know that fracking is not only hazardous to health but also to the environment.

The Hazelwood Power Station in the Latrobe Valley gives off five percent of Australia’s greenhouse gas and successive state and federal governments have allowed this to continue. GDF SUEZ could continue producing power at a reduced capacity until 2042, if a current application to extend its works is granted by the state government.

Yallourn power station’s upgrade, while increasing efficiency by four percent but not increasing emissions, is still a high polluter and contributes to the reduced health of workers and their families who live nearby.

In Victoria some 65 million tonnes of brown coal are burned annually for electricity production. This contains, according to the World Nuclear Association (2014), about 1.6 parts per million (ppm) uranium and 3.0 - 3.5 ppm thorium, hence about 100 tonnes of uranium and 200 tonnes of thorium is buried in land fill each year in the Latrobe Valley. Coal ash from power generation is highly radioactive and also contains toxic metals such as mercury, which poses serious health concerns for humans and animals.

Successive state governments have failed local communities. In South Australia, the Port Augusta Power Station has continued to pollute. Port Augusta is close to the Playford power station and the community has double the state average number of cancers.

The campaign for renewable energy by local residents for concentrated solar energy has been outstanding and gained a lot of traction. They had done their homework i.e. demonstrating that solar energy creates permanent jobs. Workers and farmers have a common cause and must unite in campaigning to prevent environmental vandalism by mining companies’ toxic pollution.

Next article – CSIRO budget cuts hit climate and marine research

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