Green groups seek SC relief vs coal plants
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - June 30, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines -  A coalition of environmental groups yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to strictly regulate the operations of coal-fired power plants and reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. 

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), with De La Salle University-College of Law dean Jose Manuel Diokno as lead convenor filed a 64-page petition for writ of continuing mandamus with temporary environmental protection order before the SC. 

The PMCJ said “the DOE and the DENR are supposed to be the vanguards of energy security and environmental sustainability” but they allowed coal plants to proliferate, making the country more instead of less dependent on fossil fuels.

“As a direct result of the failure of DENR and DOE to do their duties specifically enjoined by law and their respective offices, the country has had to rely on dirty energy generated by coal plants that have been operating without proper standards, without accountability and without regard to their adverse impact on the environment and the people’s health,” PMCJ said.

“Unless this Honorable Court intervenes, the Philippines will be locked in to costly and harmful coal contracts for generations to come, despite the existence of renewable energy that is cleaner, cheaper and better,” it added.

Gerry Arances, one of the PMCJ petitioners, said when renewable energy started in year 2009, it accounted for 34 percent of energy sources. But as of last year, it went down to 29 percent. 

“Despite having laws that promote clean and cheap source of energy, what is happening is the opposite,” Arances said as he expressed concern that by year 2030, the percentage of coal use would go up to 70 to 80 percent. 

Too much exposure to coal could lead to diseases such as urinary tract infection (UTI) and cancer, the group noted.

The group asked the SC to compel the DENR to immediately review or revise the ambient air quality guideline values, emission standards for stationary sources and effluent standards; and disclose power plant companies operating without continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) and the continuous emission opacity systems (COMS) and to institute proceedings against them.

It also asked the SC to order the DENR to install proper ambient air monitoring equipment and to delineate and designate attainment and non-attainment of areas, at least in areas with existing and proposed coal plants.

On the other hand, the group asked that the DOE be made to issue the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) rules, establish the Green Energy Options Program and reduce dependence on fossil fuels and comply with the Philippines’ commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The PMCJ also asked the high court to issue a temporary environmental protection order until such time that the DENR and DOE are able to comply with its demands.

It said the DENR must also be enjoined from processing environmental compliance certificate (ECC) applications for coal-fired plants and from issuing authority to construct and permit to operate to coal plants.

The DOE, meanwhile, must be enjoined from issuing the certificate endorsement to coal plants and service contracts with coal plant proponents, the group told the SC.

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