Media Release: Health leaders call on NSW Premier to ban new coal mines in Hunter

New report counts high economic costs of health impacts from coal

A comprehensive report, released today by a coalition of 28 key health organisations, highlights the serious threats to human health from the rapid expansion of the Hunter coal industry, calculates the burden of this health damage to the economy and, significantly, calls for a ban on new coal projects in the region and an orderly transition away from coal. [Attached]

High profile figures including former Australians of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley and Professor Tim Flannery and former NASA scientist James Hansen, and 23 other academics and public health experts, have signed an open letter to the NSW Premier (below) demanding the phasing out of coal production in the Hunter.

President of the Climate and Health Alliance, ANU academic Dr Liz Hanna, speaking outside NSW Parliament said, “Coal is responsible for harming the health of communities in the Hunter, and we know when our exported coal is burnt overseas, it contributes to illnesses and deaths. Other governments are moving to protect their health and their air quality. The Baird and Abbott governments have no authority to ignore Australian health risks by licensing new coal in NSW and pledging ongoing support for the coal industry.”

The Climate and Health Alliance’s report, Coal and health in the Hunter: Lessons from one valley for the world, quantifies the costs to the local and global economy from health damage, and recommends: reform of NSW planning laws to better manage health risks, new health studies and stricter air quality standards.

The report estimates the health costs from coal to the economy to include: $600m pa from pollution from the five Hunter coal fired power stations, $65.3 million pa from fine particle pollution from coal mines and power stations in Singleton and Muswellbrook, and $13 million pa from air pollution from coal sources in Newcastle. It estimates wider global impacts (the ‘social cost of carbon’) associated with Hunter Valley coal at $16-66 billion pa.

“The coal mined, burned and transported in the Hunter is exposing residents to harmful air, noise and water pollution and causing serious physical and psychological illnesses and deaths,” said Dr Hanna. “A stark example is the tiny town of Camberwell, now edged on three sides by open cut mines, which has higher rates of harmful air pollution than suburbs such as Rozelle in Sydney’s inner west.”

Interviews with Dr Liz Hanna, Wendy Bowman and Francis Grey available.

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