QUESTION: Air pollution from fossil fuel extraction and fossil fuel power plants

During Question Time Mark asked the Minister for Health and Wellbeing about the role of the Health Department in ensuring that the health of South Australians is not harmed by new polluting fossil fuel projects in South Australia.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The professional association known as Doctors for the Environment Australia has made a number of submissions to state planning authorities in relation to new fossil fuel extraction projects and new fossil fuel power plants proposed for South Australia. In their submission late last year on proposals by both Alinta and AGL they said:

"Poor health outcomes in relation to the extraction of conventional and unconventional gas are now well documented and, for those living close to these activities, may include sinus and other respiratory problems, particularly asthma, and adverse birth outcomes, namely, prematurity and low gestational weight babies."

In relation to the combustion process involved in gas-fired power plants they say:

"Pollutants include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, particulates and hazardous air pollutants (formaldehyde, benzene) and sulphur dioxide. All of these are known to be injurious to health and we draw your attention to the 3,000 premature deaths annually in Australia as a consequence of poor air quality."

My questions of the minister are:

1. What role does he or his department play in ensuring that the health of South Australians is not harmed by new polluting fossil fuel projects in South Australia?

2. Is the minister or his department even consulted about such projects, and if not, does he think he should be?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): On behalf of the Minister for Health, I'm happy to take the honourable member's questions on notice and bring back a reply.

On the 5th of September 2018, the following response was provided - 

The Hon Rob Lucas MLC: I have been advised that: The Department for Health and Wellbeing (the Department) has no role in regulating fossil fuel projects. However, the Department can provide health risk advice, and if necessary undertake health risk assessments, if requested by regulators. In relation to new fossil fuel projects, the Department has not been consulted. There 'is no legislative requirement to be consulted, either during the planning and development process for these projects, nor their ongoing operation.