National Toxics Network,

PRESS RELEASE - 1 March, 1998


The announcement on the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI NEPM), released last Friday (Feb98), has 'gutted' the Australian community's right to know about pollution and continues to protect industry's right to secretly pollute.

"The Australian community has waited for over a decade for the same rights to chemical emissions information as their American and Canadian counterparts, only to be betrayed at the last minute by the recently established and little known, industry mouthpiece, the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) 1." said Ms Lloyd-Smith, coordinator of National Toxics Network.

"The National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) NPI in its current form will effectively mean that the community will not have a right to information about pollution from much of Australia's industry. While the original NPI was to include emissions and transfers from a wide variety of polluting industries and activities, the final scheme is a "mickey mouse" version, which will protect industry's right to ongoing secret pollution."

The National Environment Protection Council is made up of State and Federal Ministers and is supported by the NEPC Corporation established in Adelaide. NEPC has failed to consult with the community and for example in the make-up of the eight Technical Working Groups established for the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) on Ambient Air, there was a heavy bias toward industry groups , with only one representative from community/environment groups.

Much fewer industries than originally proposed are required to report, the list of chemicals has been more than halved and much of current pollution will be exempt from reporting and public scrutiny. This will include all toxic and hazardous waste being released into public sewers, dumped into landfills or pumped into tailing dams. By excluding all transfers this will reduce the chemical emissions being reported by a significant quantity. (estimated >50%). Under its Agenda 21 obligations, Australia had agreed to implement a pollutant emissions and transfer register.

If you compare data provided under the Responsible Care Program, one company Australia company reported :

USEPA credits its release inventory, the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) with 46% pollution reduction (Carol Browning, USEPA '96)

"Other failings of the NPI are its lack of compliance with the NPI NEPM restricting fines for industries who fail to report due to "the cooperative nature of the NPI." Rather compliance will consist of 'naming' in Parliament those industries, which do not report. The lack of any consistency in third party right's to appeal decisions (e.g., commercial in confidence claims to information) or freedom of information provision means that the NPI will not be a national mandatory system rather a piecemeal measure implemented differently in eight different states and territories. "

Late last year, community environment groups walked out of NEPC consultative process for the NPI calling it a "charade" and the NPI, "pathetic and lowest common denominator environmental protection".

NTN believes that both a lack of political commitment plus the 'close working relationship' between NEPC and powerful industry bodies has blinded NEPC to the needs and wishes of much of the Australian public. This failure to adequately address pollution inventorying, monitoring and information provision will eventually lead to increased contamination of the environment.

NTN will be calling on all Australian industry to reject the NPI as 'lowest common denominator" environmental measure and commit themselves as good corporate citizens to the 'community's right to know' or risk being labeled as one of the "The Great Australian Polluters."


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