A request from Centennial Coal to allow empty coal trucks on route from Clarence Colliery to Mount Piper Power Station to return via Lithgow, saving 23 minutes in travel time, was approved at Lithgow City Council's meeting on September 23.
Council voted in favor for the route, which will see trucks turn left from the Great Western Highway (GWH) onto Main Street, then right onto Lithgow Street and then left onto Mort Street.
They will continue along Mort Street, Eddy Street and onto Chifley road and then make a left onto Clarence Colliery Road.
The decision comes as part of a plan to supply coal to the Portland power station due to shortfalls at Springvale.
"This is a very important issue, it's been talked about now for several weeks and I think it's got to crisis point," Cr Maree Statham said.
"Our main coal supply to Mount Piper [Springvale] is unfortunately, at this moment in time, not the perfect coal for Mount Piper, as we all know."
Cr Statham said Centennial Coal had negotiated to try to be as non-disruptive as possible.
The company proposed the transport of empty coal trucks would only occur during the daylight hours of 7am-10pm, Monday to Saturday, and 8am-10pm on Sundays and public holidays.
No truck movements would occur during school zone operations and there would be no more than 25 truck movements per day and no more than eight truck movements in an hour, the report to council stated.
Cr Statham said the concessions made were fair and it was the only way to keep the town's coal supply going into the future.
"I think it's one way to keep our coal supply going into the future on a regular basis without laying people off at Mount Piper...
"I believe this is one way to get the trucks to and from Mount Piper and there will be people that won't agree with [it] but this is a very serious matter and needs to be dealt with," she said.
Cr Wayne McAndrew said Blue Mountains Council had recently approved for full trucks to go through its area of the Darling Causeway and Mount Victoria.
"I think to share the load it's only appropriate that the empty trucks go back through our local government area bearing in mind that they're servicing from our mine to our power station," he said.
Cr Stephen Leslie said he couldn't support the motion due to noise concerns and danger to residents.
"The noise made by an empty truck would be comparable to the noise made by a full truck. The danger imposed to our residents by an empty truck would be comparable to the danger imposed on our residents by a full truck," he said.
Mayor Cr Ray Thompson reminded councillors of when pine was being harvested from Newnes and trucks came through the middle of Lithgow.
"Full pine trucks were coming right through the middle of our town so a few empty trucks going the other way I can't see it making any difference," he said.
Cr Joe Smith said, in recent times, there had been hundreds of trucks loads of dirt going to Mount Piper.
"We need to make this happen and work with these companies because if we can send a full truck of dirt... why can't we send an empty truck? I can't see the debate at all over this," he said.
He said he understood the community would have different opinions but there was a need for action.
"It might not sit well with some members of the community but somewhere along the line we've gotta keep putting the lights on," he said.
Cr Cassandra Coleman said her main concern was the long-term future of Springvale mine.
"This [empty truck movement] is to happen until the 31st December 2026 but my greatest concern is what's happening at Springvale," she said.
Cr Thompson said it was only a safeguard and was hopeful by 2026 that Angus Place Colliery and Springvale would be in full operation again.
"It's only the safeguard in case one of those bits break down to the extent it has at the moment," he said.
Cr Joe Smith said Springvale needed to get back on coal before November, 20.
"Let me tell you now, here and now. That's how critical it is because we're in big trouble if they're not.
"Let's not kid ourselves, we need to work in a short term bit of pain for a long term gain, that's what it's all about," he said.
"Springvale is in a world of heartache at the moment."
Cr Statham said she was aware of some people in the community who still did not accept coal.
"Coal is bread and butter on the table and it keeps people in positions.
"We have to survive. Every business is affected by this, every coal miner, every person in charge of Mount Piper and Angus Place and Clarence," she said.
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