7 no 3, 1999
Air Toxics Forum - Canberra May 26th 1999
By James Whelan.
Queensland Conservation Council,
Background: Senator Hill's "Our Living Heritage" statement foreshadowed the Government's intention to address air toxics under the new Living Cities Program. The overall objective of this program is to deliver a national strategy which will monitor, establish the levels of community exposure to, and manage emissions of selected air toxics. The program will run over 3 years and has a budget of $5M. To date, states have no budget to participate in the process.
The two recently developed National Environment Protection Measures (NEPM's) failed to address air toxics comprehensively. The Ambient Air set Australia's first national standards, but was restricted to the five 'criteria' pollutants which are present in the greatest mass in urban environments but which are perhaps the least toxic. The National Pollutant Inventory NEPM (referred to as the NPI) requires voluntary reporting of emissions of 90 toxics and estimation by government agencies of diffuse pollution sources including cars, lawn mowers, etc.
The Air Toxics Forum was convened during the initial scoping period by Environment Australia (EA). Invitations were extended to state agencies, industry and environment groups (through the NECF). I believe Bronwen Machin (of Environment Victoria) negotiated for a larger number of green delegates - from four to six. ACF's representative could not attend due to the GST negotiations, so we had delegates from the National Toxics Network, Greenpeace, QCC and The LEAD Group. And were hopelessly outnumbered by industry delegates.
Which air toxics will be included? The EA project team attempted to set a starting list of just 90 pollutants. This was successfully broadened to 400, including agricultural and veterinary chemicals, diesel emissions, wood smoke, neutral particles, the criteria pollutants and persistent organic compounds.
Will the scope of the air toxics program extend to national standards, monitoring protocols and regulations?
Will the air toxics response turn into a NEPM? States and industry appear reluctant to go down this path. Which is a surprise as neither of the NEPM's mentioned above are particularly interventionist.
Will the development process adhere to the NEPC's protocol for consultation? It appears Environment Australia is happy to make up a consultation program as they go along.
Will a steering group be established, involving stakeholders in managing the project? If so, who will the green representatives be? Delegates on the day agreed Matt Ruchel [of Greenpeace] and Elizabeth O'Brien [of The LEAD Group] would be excellent representatives.
Will sitting fees be paid? NB The Democrats' deal concerning the Diesel NEPM includes sitting fees for conservation rep's.
The first step will be the compilation of a 'state of knowledge' report by December 1999, pulling together information on current state programs (monitoring, NPI trials, etc) and identifying gaps in the knowledge.
Following this, consultancies will be determined to address gaps. Proposed studies include: studies of diesel emissions and wood smoke, developing a protocol for personal exposure assessment and motor vehicle emissions (picking up corridors and hotspots which the NEPM omitted).
Editor's Note: lead is a "criteria pollutant".
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