Legislative Council

QUESTION: Air Quality Standards

February 16th, 2017

On 16th February 2017, Mark asked the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation a question about air quality standards.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: In December 2015, a new standard for annual average concentration of PM10 (which stands for particulate matter of a size 10 microns or less) of 25 micrograms per cubic metre of air was agreed to by the states. A detailed consultation process earlier in 2015 modelled three levels of PM10 particles per cubic metre of air, namely, 12, 16 and 20. The lower the level, the safer the air is to breathe, so it was disappointing that we actually ended up with a level of 25 after New South Wales, backed by Queensland and some other states, refused to support even the top of the model range of 20.

South Australia indicated at the time that it may be prepared to accept the standard suggested by the World Health Organisation and other health experts, that is, an immediate adoption of 20 micrograms rather than 25. My question to the minister is: have you made a decision yet, and will you adopt the World Health Organisation standard of 20 micrograms for PM10?


The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. I am advised that the Greater Adelaide region experiences very good air quality, certainly when compared to standards in the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure, or NEPM.

In South Australia, ambient air quality monitoring, evaluation and reporting in accordance with the ambient air quality is undertaken by the EPA. The EPA also regulates industries that emit air pollution, using a range of tools, including licence conditions that may require long-term monitoring of emissions from stacks, and in some cases ambient monitoring around major facilities.

 At a national level, the EPA has been actively participating in an initiative to implement a National Clean Air Agreement made by the meeting of environment ministers that the honourable member refers to. The National Clean Air Agreement provides a consistent framework for cost-effective management of air quality within all Australian states and territories over the coming decades. Following finalisation of tightened particle standards by environment ministers in December 2015, the focus of the AAQ NEPM review shifted to standards on other criteria pollutants, that being ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

The EPA is participating in a national project to investigate the health risks of these pollutants on Australian communities and develop options for future national standards. The review is considering whether existing values of these standards should be retained or whether they should be tightened to reflect current health knowledge. In addition, the project group is considering introduction of population exposure reduction methodology for Australia, the subject of a further milestone agreement from the 2015 ministerial meeting.

The EPA, in collaboration with other government agencies, is also developing a South Australian air quality framework to promote the inclusion of air quality principles into planning processes. The framework will provide overarching principles to guide long-term management of air quality in South Australia. It is noted there are broad contributors to air pollution, such as motor vehicles and domestic and industrial sources. However, the framework will also recognise that individual local communities have particular concerns in relation to air quality and that they require unique solutions. This applies both within metropolitan and regional areas.

When finalised, the EPA will implement a communications plan to ensure all stakeholders are aware of the South Australian air quality framework. Whilst I would love to give the honourable member a jump on the announcement, I have to say, 'Watch this space.'

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