But the Greens have labelled the plan inadequate and an “insult to the local community”
EPA chairman Barry Buffier said it was clear that emissions from mining and industrial activity in the Upper Hunter had increased and there was a need to work together to improve air quality.
“The ‘Upper Hunter Air Particles Action Plan’ provides a comprehensive outline of the measures and projects in place or being developed by government agencies to improve understanding of air quality and reduce emissions in the Upper Hunter,” he said.
“These include actions to engage communities, improve planning decisions, reduce particle emissions from coal mines and other sources and improve the evidence base for action through monitoring and research.”
Buffier said the EPA had established a high-level interagency task force to improve cross-agency collaboration and provide clear accountability for delivering the measures outlined in the plan.
“The interagency task force is chaired by the EPA and includes representatives from NSW Health, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the Department of Trade and Investment – Division of Resources and Energy (Minerals),” he said.
“A key feature of the plan is the particle reduction target.
“This target has been adopted by the task force and aims to reduce PM2.5 emissions in the long term.
“The target aims to reduce the annual PM2.5 concentrations as measured at Singleton and Muswellbrook air quality monitoring stations to less than or equal to 8 micrograms per cubic metre, which is the national annual advisory reporting standard for PM2.5.
“The initial target focuses on PM2.5 due to its greater potential to impact on human health.
“The EPA is undertaking the Upper Hunter particle characterisation study to find out more about the sources of PM2.5 in Singleton and Muswellbrook and is developing a model of the sources and transport of PM2.5 that will assist in developing future measures to improve air quality.
“In total there are 18 actions outlined in the plan, some examples include the dust stop program to reduce dust from mines, a new program to reduce diesel emissions from offroad vehicles and equipment at coal mines and working with councils to improve wood smoke management.
“The EPA is committed to increasing transparency and working closely with community and stakeholders to improve understanding about air quality issues and to reduce emissions.”
Greens MP and environment spokesperson Cate Faehrmann said the plan was an inadequate response to the serious health risks of particulate pollution.
"This is nothing more than an attempt by the O'Farrell government to look like it is doing something on air pollution in the Upper Hunter in response to a community outcry,” she said.
“However, this action plan will do nothing to rein in air pollution in the Upper Hunter over the longer term.
"With dozens of new or expanded coal mines planned in the region, I can guarantee you that the government will not meet its target for PM2.5 concentrations.
"Many of the 18 actions in its so-called action plan are standard responsibilities that the EPA should be doing as a matter of course, such as 'continuing to inspect mines' and 'continuing to collaborate with industry'.
"This very much looks like the EPA has scrambled around trying to find things it can quickly pull together and release to the media as an 'action plan'.”