An ongoing investigation by the Socialist Equality Party
BHP and the EPA
The NSW Environment Protection Authority is totally subservient to BHP and other major companies. That was made clear by a submission from Workers News industrial editor Terry Cook.
Cook examined the Health Unit leukaemia report's recommendations dealing with EPA monitoring. The report suggested that the EPA "continue to require environmental monitoring, including for relevant air toxics, and health risk assessment studies, in situations where pollution is generated that could have an adverse impact on the community".
These words gave the distinct impression that monitoring had been carried out by the EPA in the past with beneficial results.
In fact the EPA did not conduct any monitoring associated with corporate pollution licenses. "The EPA relies solely on data presented to it by the various companies. They monitor their own emissions or hire contractors to do it and merely present their figures every three months or so to the EPA."
Another recommendation urged the government, through the EPA, to "continue to reduce community exposures to air pollution, including air toxics, by requiring industry to implement Pollution Reduction Programs".
Any worker reading the passage would think that "Pollution Reductions Programs" would naturally be based on what was required to safeguard public health.
In reality, these programs were "negotiated" with companies like BHP, and the outcome was determined solely by their profit requirements.
To illustrate the point, Cook quoted from a letter sent by the EPA in reply to a request from the Workers Inquiry. The letter indicated that the EPA had negotiated with BHP for the company to undertake three five-year Pollution Reduction Programs from 1976 to 1996 at its Port Kembla plant.
The letter added: "We advise that there were no formal PRPs [Pollution Reduction Programs] negotiated with BHP for the period 1981-1986 due to a major downturn in the world steel industry."
Cook commented: "In other words, if BHP is suffering a drop in profits because of a 'downturn' then as far as the EPA and the government are concerned, that is a legitimate argument to cut expenditure on safety and thereby put the health and lives of working people, both inside the steel plants and the surrounding areas, at further risk.
"We can see that public health is not the principle determining the actions of the EPA or the state government -- it is the health of the profits of the companies."