Monday, June 1, 2015

Coal Plant in Palawan?

by Anton Antonio
May 30, 2015

The following statement was issued by PACE (Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy) on the PCSD’s (Palawan Council for Sustainable Development) approval of the proposed Coal Plant in Palawan:

“We join all of Palawan’s affected communities and civil society in denouncing the action of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to approve the establishment of the DMCI coal fired power plant, during its meeting on 28 May 2015.
The manner by which the PCSD issued a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance to the thermal plant project demonstrated this body’s brazen disregard of its core mandate to protect Palawan’s environment. The PCSD as a permanent regulatory agency surrendered itself to machinations of local politics, kowtowing to the provincial governor’s personal dictates.
We denounce the fact that there was no deliberation or debate at all within the Council as Governor Jose Alvarez held sway all other local officials including the mayors of Puerto Princesa City and the municipality of Narra who meekly kept their mouths shut when the resolution was made.As representatives of communities opposing the coal project, we were denied our basic clamor to be fairly represented in the decision making process.
We denounce the fact that even in the communities where the coal plant is planned to be constructed, there was no informed participation in the environmental impact assessment process. This denied community residents unbiased access to information on the coal power plant project.
We denounce the railroading of the entire local permitting process from the barangay level to the municipal level and from the provincial legislature to the PCSD Council. All of these processes were a mockery of the consultative and participatory processes required under existing laws, and in direct disregard of PCSD's own procedures. To date, DMCI has not submitted an Environmental Impact Statement on its project to the ECAN Board. There was no endorsement from the ECAN Board necessary to facilitate its endorsement to the PCSD. And finally, the coal option was evaluated but rejected as too costly under the newly approved Palawan Island Energy Development Masterplan.
Shocking and disturbing is the governor’s response that the project no longer needs the endorsement of the ECAN Board and the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),and that he can unilaterally change the energy masterplan. It is alarming that the highest-ranking public official in the province of Palawan contravenes the basic tenets of transparency, participation and accountability that our laws stand for. The Aquino Administration promotes good governance in its fight against corruption.
We thus call on every Palaweno to send letter-petitions protesting this mockery of our laws and processes to key national officials, the provincial governor, to all the government officials who sit in the PCSD, to the barangay officials of San Isidro, Narra and the municipal officials of Narra.”
The PACE statement is certainly an environmental “red flag”.  But more than simply providing agitation, the level of awareness of the general public must also be addressed by providing information on the ill effects of coal power plants.  People will better commit to a cause when they are made aware of its importance to them.  It really should be an informed movement structured on knowledge and belief systems.

Coal has negative impacts on public health and the environment in general.  Burning coal is a major source of ozone (smog), fine particulate, acid rain, air toxics and greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Links have been made between exposure to pollution from coal-burning power plants and serious health impacts such as heart disease, respiratory disease and cancer. Burning coal also contaminates drinking water with mercury and other metals. Hazardous coal combustion waste (CCW) remains largely under regulated, often disposed of in unlined pits or old mines where dangerous chemicals like arsenic can leach into drinking water supplies.

There are numerous damaging environmental impacts of coal that occur through its mining, preparation, combustion, waste storage, and transport. This article ( provides an overview. Each topic is explored in greater depth in separate articles, as are several related topics:
·         Acid mine drainage (AMD) refers to the outflow of acidic water from coal mines or metal mines, often abandoned mines where ore- or coal mining activities have exposed rocks containing the sulphur-bearing mineral pyrite. Pyrite reacts with air and water to form sulphuric acid and dissolved iron, and as water washes through mines, this compound forms a dilute acid, which can wash into nearby rivers and streams.
·         Air pollution from coal-fired power plants includes sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (PM), and heavy metals, leading to smog, acid rain, toxins in the environment, and numerous respiratory, cardiovascular, and cerebrovascular effects.
·         Air pollution from coal mines is mainly due to emissions of particulate matter and gases including methane (CH4), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx), as well as carbon monoxide (CO).
·         Climate impacts of coal plants - Coal-fired power plants are responsible for one-third of America’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, making coal a huge contributor to global warming.  Black carbon resulting from incomplete combustion is an additional contributor to climate change.
·         Coal dust stirred up during the mining process, as well as released during coal transport, which can cause severe and potentially deadly respiratory problems.
·         Coal fires occur in both abandoned coal mines and coal waste piles.  Internationally, thousands of underground coal fires are burning now.  Global coal fire emissions are estimated to include 40 tons of mercury going into the atmosphere annually, and three percent of the world's annual carbon dioxide emissions.
·         Coal combustion waste is the nation's second largest waste stream after municipal solid waste.[9] It is disposed of in landfills or "surface impoundments," which are lined with compacted clay soil, a plastic sheet, or both. As rain filters through the toxic ash pits year after year, the toxic metals are leached out into the local environment.
·         Coal sludge, also known as slurry, is the liquid coal waste generated by washing coal.  It is typically disposed of at impoundments located near coal mines, but in some cases it is directly injected into abandoned underground mines.  Since coal sludge contains toxins, leaks or spills can endanger underground and surface waters
·         Floods such as the Buffalo Creek Flood caused by mountaintop removal mining and failures of coal mine impoundments.
·         Forest destruction caused by mountaintop removal mining - According to a 2010 study, mountaintop removal mining has destroyed 6.8% of Appalachia’s forests.
·         Greenhouse gas emissions caused by surface mining - According to a 2010 study, mountaintop removal mining releases large amounts of carbon through clearcutting and burning of trees and through releases of carbon in soil brought to the surface by mining operations.  These greenhouse gas emissions amount to at least 7% of conventional power plant emissions.
·         Loss or degradation of groundwater - Since coal seams are often serve as underground aquifers, removal of coal beds may result in drastic changes in hydrology after mining has been completed.
·         Radical disturbance of 8.4 million acres of farmland, rangeland, and forests, most of which has not been reclaimed.
·         Heavy metals and coal - Coal contains many heavy metals, as it is created through compressed organic matter containing virtually every element in the periodic table - mainly carbon, but also heavy metals.  The heavy metal content of coal varies by coal seam and geographic region.  Small amounts of heavy metals can be necessary for health, but too much may cause acute or chronic toxicity (poisoning).  Many of the heavy metals released in the mining and burning of coal are environmentally and biologically toxic elements, such as lead, mercury, nickel tin, cadmium, antimony, and arsenic, as well as radio isotopes of thorium and strontium.
·         Mercury and coal - Emissions from coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury in the United States, accounting for about 41 percent (48 tons in 1999) of industrial releases.
·         Methane released by coal mining accounts for about 10 percent of US releases of methane (CH4), a potent global warming gas.
·         Mountaintop removal mining and other forms of surface mining can lead to the drastic alteration of landscapes, destruction of habitat, damages to water supplies, and air pollution. Not all of these effects can be adequately addressed through coal mine reclamation.
·         Particulates and coal - Particulate matter (PM) includes the tiny particles of fly ash and dust that are expelled from coal-burning power plants.  Studies have shown that exposure to particulate matter is related to an increase of respiratory and cardiac mortality.
·         Radioactivity and coal - Coal contains minor amounts of the radioactive elements, uranium and thorium. When coal is burned, the fly ash contains uranium and thorium "at up to 10 times their original levels."
·         Subsidence - Land subsidence may occur after any type of underground mining, but it is particularly common in the case of longwall mining.
·         Sulfur dioxide and coal - Coal-fired power plants are the largest human-caused source of sulfur dioxide, a pollutant gas that contributes to the production of acid rain and causes significant health problems.  Coal naturally contains sulfur, and when coal is burned, the sulfur combines with oxygen to form sulfur oxides.
·         Thermal pollution from coal plants is the degradation of water quality by power plants and industrial manufacturers - when water used as a coolant is returned to the natural environment at a higher temperature, the change in temperature impacts organisms by decreasing oxygen supply, and affecting ecosystem composition.
·         Toxins - According to a July 2011 NRDC report, “How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States” electricity generation in the U.S. releases 381,740,601 lbs. of toxic air pollution annually, or 49% of total national emissions, based on data from the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (2009 data, accessed June 2011).  Power plants are the leading sources of toxic air pollution in all but four of the top 20 states by electric sector emissions.
·         Transportation - Coal is often transported via trucks, railroads, and large cargo ships, which release air pollution such as soot and can lead to disasters that ruin the environment, such as the Shen Neng 1 coal carrier collision with the Great Barrier Reef, Australia that occurred in April 2010.
·         Waste coal, also known as "culm," "gob," or "boney," is made up of unused coal mixed with soil and rock from previous mining operations. Runoff from waste coal sites can pollute local water supplies.
·         Water consumption from coal plants - Power generation has been estimated to be second only to agriculture in being the largest domestic user of water.
·         Water pollution from coal includes the negative health and environmental effects from the mining, processing, burning, and waste storage of coal.
Please note that the foregoing article is based on coal utilization experiences in the United States.  However, whether in the US or any part of the world, coal is coal and geography will never change the ill effects of coal.  So why a coal plant in Palawan?
Just my little thoughts…

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Source Watch (2015). “Environmental impacts of coal.”  Retrieved on May 30, 2015 from

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