Rail boss quizzed on dust: video

FLAWS FOUND: Senator Lee Rhiannon speaking at yesterday’s committee meeting.Please enable Javascript to watch this videoA REVIEW of a controversial study into coal train dust will be released this week, the Environment Protection Authority said yesterday.
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The review, by Professor Louise Ryan from the University of Technology, Sydney, was ordered by the EPA after concerns were raised about the original study by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.

The corporation’s chief executive, John Fullerton, was questioned on coal train dust yesterday by a Senate standing committee on rural and regional affairs and transport.

Committee member Senator Lee Rhiannon asked Mr Fullerton why the coal industry didn’t simply put covers on coal wagons if it wanted to ‘‘allay community concerns’’.

Senator Rhiannon was asking Mr Fullerton about the government-owned rail corporation’s involvement with a new series of studies announced this month by the NSW Minerals Council.

Senator Rhiannon said flaws in two earlier studies had damaged the corporation’s reputation and it was working with a ‘‘partisan’’ body in the form of the Minerals Council.

While Mr Fullerton said the rail corporation was not an expert body on rail dust, he believed no evidence had been provided to show that covering rail wagons was ‘‘a solution’’.

The chair of the committee, Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, said that as a farmer it was obvious to him that coal dust came out of coal wagons and it was logical to him that more dust came out of wagons at the start of their journey than at the finish.

‘‘The dust thing is real, I accept that,’’ Senator Heffernan said.

‘‘There was a Japanese company in the Hunter five or six years ago that bought the dairy farms around it [the mine] and said you can lease them back for a dollar a year sort of thing.

‘‘So the dairy cockies kept going but within 18months they had to shut because the milk was contaminated, the water was contaminated, the pasture was contaminated.’’

Asked by Senator Rhiannon if dust came out of coal wagons, Mr Fullerton said he would rather have the EPA answer the question.

Mr Fullerton acknowledged a controversy over the findings, which was why Professor Ryan had been hired to peer review the methodology.

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