Sunday, April 9, 2017

Things That Keep Me Awake At Night (Director's Cut)

Bayswater Power Station, Upper Hunter, New South Wales)

Every week in our local (and slowly dying) paper an Upper Hunter Shire councillor writes a column entitled 'Shire Notes.' Given that there are nine councillors, I (yes I was elected last September 2016) get a turn once every 9 weeks. Here are my latest ones.
Last week (Wednesday 29th March 2017) I attended the ‘Power Stations and Our Health Community Workshop’ held at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music in Muswellbrook. 

It was chilling. 

According to Dr Ben Ewald from Doctors of the Environment the Upper Hunter community pays a high cost for the polluted air billowing out from our coal-fired power stations. We pay through heart disease, lung disease and asthma. There are no safe levels of pollution and both Bayswater and Liddell are health hazards to our community.

Despite the Australian government allowing coal-fired power stations to belch out a much higher level of polluting emissions than the World Health Organisation advises, Muswellbrook’s air quality shows air pollution levels beyond even our own paltry standard. 

There are five monitoring sites in the Upper Hunter, and the data collected tells us we have a problem.

The main pollutants from Bayswater and Liddell are sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and small invisible particulate matter referred to as PM2.5 (product of combustibles), and they are absorbed through our lungs into our bloodstream where they can cause angina, heart attacks and strokes. Unsurprisingly, children are at an extreme risk from this toxic mix of air pollution.

Two AGL representatives at the workshop noted that Liddell is due for retirement in 2022 and Bayswater in 2035. But what concerns Doctors for the Environment is that closure schedules all too often pit commercial interests against health damage, and consequently power stations are retired first on economic grounds rather than health.

Bearing in mind that our power stations could actually close earlier than forecast, Doctors for the Environment raised the spectre that Australian governments are ill-prepared in creating new jobs and new industries for the inevitable transition away from coal-fired power stations. It is all a great worry.

The proposed Scone Bypass is also causing me concern.

The loss of part of the Bill Rose Sporting Complex, the impact on the Golf Club and White Park, the unsightliness of a significantly raised road through the floodplain area of Parson’s Gully and Kingdon Ponds … how is any of this going to improve our town?

The apparent minimal community discussion RMS have had (or not had) on the environmental and social impacts of the bypass alarm me. Whilst the removal of trucks from our high street has been flagged as a significant driver for the bypass, will we not also be removing essential traffic required for business along Kelly Street?

Yes Council is working hard with local stakeholders to have our town ready when the bypass is complete but this project is essentially about motorway building and the moving of freight on a national integrated system of super roads.

Today’s roads have morphed into mobile warehouses, and Scone bypass will be an imposed environmental grievance with lasting impacts on our town.

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