Coal communities still don’t have fresh air during quarantine, says clean energy group

The Power for People Coalition (P4P) on Friday cautioned the public against welcoming the fresher air in Manila as the continued production of electricity means that communities where coal-fired power plants are sited continue to suffer from the emissions of these plants.

The clean energy group is reacting to reports that the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology of the University of the Philippines Diliman saw the level of pollutants in the air had dropped by as much as 180 percent after the imposition of the quarantine, and that the Department of Energy (DOE) has told power plants to continue operations despite lower demand.

“It’s great news that people in Metro Manila are starting to enjoy fresher air. But at the same time, we should not forget those in communities with coal power plants. They will continue to breathe in air contaminated with the byproducts of coal pollution,” said P4P Convenor Gerry Arances.

The clean energy advocate said that with the restriction of other fossil fuel pollutants, the quarantine might be the best time to test the level of pollution produced by coal.

“The quarantine, as terrible as it may be, offers an opportunity that we are unlikely to have again – almost complete absence of other pollutants like vehicle and factory emissions which will allow us to measure in complete confidence how much damage coal does to the environment,” said Arances.

Coal-fired power plants emit sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NO2) and other gaseous pollutants in the air that can react chemically to form particulate matter that is 2.5 µm in diameter, what is called PM2.5, which is used to measure air pollution.

“Coal pollution causes or worsens asthma, causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stunted lung development or even death for infants, lung cancer, black lung, strokes, cardiac arrest, and developmental delay including reduced intelligence and mental retardation. If coal were to be introduced now, it would never get approval from governments, yet we let its use continue,” said Arances.

Arances reiterated the stance of P4P that with the availability of renewable energy, the use of coal is unnecessary.

“There is a source of energy which does not cause air pollution, is affordable, and does not break down when asked to produce at capacity, traits coal does not have. Renewable energy already powers many advanced economies. We should not get left behind on this one. Let’s end all the ill effects of coal and produce affordable, sustainable, and reliable energy for all,” said Arances.