Media Release

Whyalla Steelworks pollution exemption nobbles EPA but won't help jobs: Greens

08/09/2015 11:00 am

Extending special statutory pollution exemptions to the operators of the Whyalla Steelworks for another 10 years is a massive vote of no confidence in the EPA, but won’t provide any extra job security, according to Greens MLC and environmental lawyer, Mark Parnell.

“Today, the Government will introduce legislation to extend for another 10 years, pollution exemptions that were passed back in 2005. These laws exempted the steelworks from having to comply with State and National environmental standards, particularly around dust emissions.

“The purpose of the 2005 legislation was to nobble the EPA and to kill off the environmental legal challenge brought by residents of Whyalla, who were sick of dangerous pollution levels harming their health and their property.

“Thankfully, the bad old days of massive and dangerous red dust pollution in Whyalla are mostly behind us, so there is no reason now for the steelworks not to be subject to the same environmental standards as other South Australian industries. Under the 2005 laws:

  • The EPA can NOT change pollution licence conditions negotiated between the Government and the company;
  • Any new national pollution standards for dust will NOT apply to the steelworks.
  • Key parts of the Environment Protection Act DON’T apply to the steelworks.

“Exempting the steelworks from environmental standards for another 10 years won’t guarantee a single job. The problem with the steel industry is the demand for steel and the price of iron ore, not environmental standards. This move won’t create jobs or even save jobs. It’s just nonsense.

“The EPA should be allowed to do its job protecting the community from pollution without political interference. The 2005 laws should be allowed to expire disgracefully, not be extended for another decade”, concluded Mark Parnell

 

Disclosure: Mark Parnell was the principal solicitor at the Environmental Defenders Office and represented the Whyalla Red Dust Action Group Inc. from 1998 to 2005 including representation in Court during their long-running legal battle to improve environmental standards at the BHP (later OneSteel, now Arrium) Whyalla Steelworks.

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