Coal dust report cover up, results altered

A community group in the Hunter Valley say a report into train coal dust emissions was altered to better suit the NSW Government's agenda, after an earlier report was leaked.

The Coal Terminal Action Group is urging the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to set up a Special Commission of Inquiry after receiving a leaked version of the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s ‘Particulate Emissions from Coal Trains’ report.

They say conclusions in the leaked version dated 24 May contradict those in the released version of 30 May.

Group spokesman James Whelan said fifteen of the report’s eighteen conclusions were changed.

“In three instances, the opposite conclusions were stated,” he said.

“By deleting or inserting the word ‘no’ or ‘not’, a very different picture of the impacts of coal trains on air quality in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter is reached.

“Other conclusions were modified to significantly downplay the pollution levels associated with coal trains, and the released report saw three new conclusions added and one deleted.”

Whelan is calling on the premier to set up a special commission into coal dust in the Hunter.

“This looks like a cover-up, and the truth needs to be established.”

“It appears that a Commonwealth-owned corporation has provided the NSW Government with misleading information about the impact of coal trains on public health.”

The ARTC said the report had gone through a final review process to ensure it was accurate.

"The environmental consultants that prepared this report discovered an error in the calculations while preparing the final report and they adjusted the findings accordingly," it said in a statement.

It said despite the changes both versions of the report made the same finding that loaded coal trains on the Hunter network did not have higher particle emissions than other trains, the West Australian reported.

As Australian Mining reported, the paper released by the ARTC on the 30th of May said the monitoring program concluded that: “loaded coal trains operating on the Hunter Valley rail network, when measured at Metford, did not have a statistically stronger association with elevated particulate matter concentrations than other trains.”

ARTC chief John Fullerton said he hoped people in the local community would read the report.

"What I encourage people to do is read that report and draw the conclusions, and recognise the conclusions that have been drawn in the report by an agency that's an expert in the field,” he said.

However The Greens slammed the findings by the ARTC saying the results did not add up.

“These results are a complete contradiction to the studies community groups and the University of Newcastle have been involved in,” Jan Davis said.

“I think studies done by the groups and the university are much more reliable.”

Davis said the ARTC should have appointed an independent body to undertake the testing.

“I don’t believe the ARTC findings are the true results and I don’t think they should be conducting the study given their involvement with the coal industry,” she said.

While NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon warned the federal government to disregard the data when considering of the health impacts of coal dust on Hunter communities.

A Senate inquiry into the impacts of coal dust in Newcastle began earlier this year.

A comparison of the conclusions in the draft report and the final report can be found here.

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