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New pollution and noise rules for rail freight risks piling another 25,000 B-double trucks onto the roads in a perverse outcome of a state government green push that would also hurt the state’s grain industry and push up grocery prices, farmers warn.
New pollution and noise rules for rail freight risks piling another 25,000 B-double trucks onto the roads in a perverse outcome of a state government green push.
The pollution scheme would also hurt the state’s grain industry and push up grocery prices, farmers warn.
Agricultural leaders, including the NSW Farmers Association, have detailed the warning in a letter to NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean as the government finalises plans to impose strict new pollution and noise rules on the rail freight sector.
The reforms signal the newest front in the government’s environment wars with Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall on Monday slamming the plans — which are being finalised by Mr Kean’s Environmental Protection Authority.
“At every turn the EPA go out of their way to put green ideology ahead of our regional communities and common sense — this will mean less freight by rail and more by truck — how does that achieve any improvement to emissions?” Mr Barilaro said.
While the rules have been on the government’s radar since 2016, the plans have been given new urgency.
In a letter to Mr Kean, signed by the NSW Farmers Association, Graincorp, Manildra, Pacific National and seven other bodies, the government is warned that the proposed standards will hurt farmers already in drought.
The standards — which have not been made public — will require rolling stock operators to have a licence which will only be issued if noise and pollution emissions standards are met.
Pacific National freight rail.The letter warns that the standards could completely cease rail freight operations on regional grain branch lines including Hillston, Lake Cargelligo, Boree Creek, Tottenham, Weemelah, and Merrywinebone.
“Combined, these regional branch lines help to transport from silos to port approximately ten per cent of the state’s annual export grain volume,” the letter states.
They warn that the standards, which will lock older train tracks out of operation because they cannot accommodate new trains, will see an additional 25,000 B-double equivalent truck trips on roads.
“Compared to existing rail freight services Pacific National estimates these extra truck trips on regional roads will generate a 500 per cent increase or an additional 3.3 million kg in CO2 per year.”
A Pacific National Bulk Rail grain train passes through Gunning in NSW.The letter also raised the prospect that the increase cost to farmers would push grain prices up.
When quizzed about the concerns raised in the letter, a spokesman for Mr Kean said the “specific requirements are being consulted on”.
“The proposal has been developed to minimise the impact on industry and gives them time to implement whatever they need to,” the statement said.
Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall. Picture: Jonathan Ng“This is about getting the balance right between the economic and operational requirements of industry and balancing this with the expectations of the community.”
The statement said “the proposal is about reducing noise and pollution which impacts health, it is not about reducing carbon emissions”.
Agriculture Minister Mr Marshall said “farmers are battling drought and bushfires and now these clowns want to reach into their pockets again, making things tougher in an environment that’s already pushed people and businesses to the brink”.
Southern Shorthaul Railroad director Jason Ferguson said the proposed licensing system would “result in freight trains disappearing”.
The EPA said “a joint study by the EPA and the rail industry found air quality can be improved through reduced air emissions limits from locomotives”, adding that the EPA “was currently considering feedback from the rail industry”. Reforms would be implemented with a 10-year time frame, the EPA said.
This article first appeared on www.dailytelegraph.com.au
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