Environmentalists say it is crucial Hunter residents get the opportunity to voice their concerns about a controversial fourth coal loader in Newcastle.
Coal Terminal Action Group spokeswoman Fee Mozeley says 20 groups will be represented at a 'people's hearing' at City Hall tonight.
Port Waratah Coal Services' preferred project report for T4 is on public exhibition, despite the company announcing in May there is no urgent need for it unless industry conditions improve.
Ms Mozeley says tonight's forum will be run like a Planning Assessment Commission hearing.
"This will provide an opportunity for residents to participate actively in the decision about whether or not a fourth coal terminal should be approved," she said.
"It's a really critical timeframe right now, this is such an important decision for Novocastrians but they need the opportunity to actively participate in that decision."
Ms Mozeley says it is not just residents living near Newcastle's proposed fourth coal loader that should be worried about the impacts of the controversial project.
"The impacts of T4 are not just localised to those who are living closest to the coal infrastructure or the coal terminal.
"It actually affects a wide range of people all the way along the coal corridor and even more broadly coal exports affect people globally.
"It's fair to say that coal anywhere affects people everywhere."