What does the new draft Clean Air Strategy released by the NSW government recently have to do with The Australia Institute's warning this week that there are proposals on the books at the moment for new and existing coal mines in the Hunter that would be equal to 10 Adani coal mines?
Well, a great deal actually - we know that despite trying to find a solution over five years that the NSW government has put in to its draft Clean Air Strategy that there are gaping holes in any conclusions and commitments.
As we already know from work done by health departments throughout Australia, as well as Environmental Justice Australia, people living in areas like the Hunter are known to suffer from a series of adverse health effects, including earlier death in some cases. And the reasons for these health effects are well known - here in the Hunter open cut coal mines and power stations are some of the biggest contributors.
This ties in with the mind-boggling figures that Matthew Kelly told us about in The Herald on April 1 - if only it was an April Fools joke.
Hunter coal proposals would have an extra output of 98 million tonnes - the equivalent of 10 Adani Carmichael mines proposed in Queensland.
This information then triggered ex-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to comment about the situation we in the Hunter find ourselves in - he commented that he thought "approvals for new mines are out of control", and that "the Upper Hunter region is like a lunar landscape".
Malcolm, it would have been good for you to talk about this when you were actually prime minister, but better late than never
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Well said Malcolm, it would have been good for you to talk about this when you were actually prime minister, but better late than never.
Not only does the area resemble a moonscape, those living there suffer from health effects that are chronic for lung health like asthma, especially for children, and heart disease in adults.
The effects flow through to many residents living near coal mining areas, trying to sell their stranded assets is a cruel blow for many - and renting cheaply from coal mine owners means you cannot criticise them for the health effects on your children especially.
And then Kelly wrote about a "black water event" that will hit our Hunter River very soon, and "masses of oxygen-starved fish are expected to float down the Hunter River in coming days".
What has that got to do with mining or air quality, you may ask?
Well, following the massive amounts of rain we have had across the region in the past two months, the dozens of coal mines up the Goulburn and Hunter rivers are allowed to flush out in high flows their dams of salt and toxic chemicals - which affects water quality and attaches itself to the silt which ends up in the estuary.
We do have a mechanism that is supposed to mitigate the policy of flushing salt and toxic chemicals into the river systems, however water quality issues are not addressed by the Hunter Salinity Trading Scheme.
The discharge of heavy metals and metalloids into rivers is not regulated.
Hard to believe I know.
Malcolm Turnbull did also comment that the severe environmental effects that the mainly multi-national coal companies have wreaked on us here in the Hunter which are supposed to be rehabilitated by these same companies as part of their approval process may well end up being paid for by us taxpayers?
Let's just highlight that and make sure it does not happen.
As part of the rehabilitation process we must protest that these same multinationals were not required to fill in the voids or spaces - like has to happen anywhere else in the world - and the resultant salt laden toxic dams will total at least 6000 hectares.
Not a pretty sight for or legacy for our grandchildren.
So all in all, it has not been a good week if you care for the environment of the Hunter - and then to add to the general tone, we see a pic in The Herald of several pollies at the local football on the weekend to highlight the connection of our local NRL team and coal companies.
We had local Labor luminary Joel Fitzgibbon, who champions his coal connections whenever he can, One Nation MLC (ex Labor) Mark Latham and Nationals John Barilaro all photographed together at the Knights game, and happy to label Turnbull as "an anti-coal activist".
Well I truly have heard everything now.
Maybe it was a stunt to shore up support for the upcoming Upper Hunter by-election.
Jan Davis is President of the Hunter Environment Lobby Inc
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