Environment 24 August, 2018 10:00 am   
COMMENTS: Mateusz Gibała

The fight against smog in Poland is a fiction (INTERVIEW)

In an interview with, Andrzej Guła, head of the Polish Smog Alert said that despite the announcements, this year it will be impossible to introduce standards that will eliminate coal of a very low quality. In his opinion, the draft regulation of the Ministry of Energy on coal quality standards shows a fiction of fighting against air pollution in Poland. The Ministry of Energy has published a draft regulation on coal quality standards. The document is currently consulted by the market. Is this a breakthrough or a step backwards?

Andrzej Guła: There is no breakthrough. If we look at the package proposed by the Ministry of Energy, this is the sanctioning of the status quo. At the moment, the draft regulation allows everything to trade, including low quality waste coal, high ash and sulfur content.

Even if we compare this proposal with the regulation, which in 2015 was notified by the European Commission, it was definitely better. Regarding fines, in the current version of the regulation, the Ministry of Energy wants to admit absolute waste, which should never be incinerated in household furnaces or installations below 1 MW, that is, ash content – 28 percent and sulfur – 1,8 percent. If we look at what the European Commission agreed to, only fine coal grades with an ash content below 12 percent and sulfur below 1 percent were to be admitted to trading.

Is this a breakthrough? There is a law, but there is no breakthrough. In the retail market, nothing will change on the communal market. What’s more, there is one more dangerous gate. The worst coal grades can be mixed with waste such as flotoconcentrates or coal sludge. Customers will not even know that they are buying coal waste. Why is it like that? Because in the case of fine coal, no significant parameter is defined as the sub-population, i.e. the fleet fraction, i.e. with a diameter below 1 mm.

Do the proposed provisions of the regulation contradict the government’s anti-smog policy?

I’m disappointed with them. This shows that we are dealing with fiction, not a real fight with smog. For now, we hear a lot of announcements, and there are no real activities in the regulatory or legislative sphere. From time to time, we assess the government’s Clean Air Program (in January 2017, the government announced 15 anti-smog activities, including the adoption of coal quality standards), and they are not positive as far as the anti-smog balance is concerned. For now, it’s 13:2. Everything, however, indicates that there will be some degradation of this result at 14:1. We also observe regress in other areas. In Poland, the civil service is not functioning properly. It is not able to prepare good legislation, even if there is a political will to create it. Holes are created, for example, those that were supposed to eliminate the so-called “most-polluting” boilers from commercial circulation. The market has adapted and these devices are still sold, under a different name.

What can the rush of the Ministry of Energy result from, since it foresaw only one week for consultations on the draft regulation?

I do not know if this is rush. The Ministry of Energy rather wanted to lead to the key entities responsible for air protection, such as local governments or other institutions that work for clean air. The project was consulted with coal companies and no social party was invited to the talks. This is an open consultation and keeping our finger on the pulse we expected that the Ministry of Energy will want to conduct consultations during the holiday season. Is this a hurry? We are dealing with something that has been delayed for several months. Many times Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the adoption of coal quality standards. In January 2017 it appeared in the government’s Clean Air Program. Nothing has happened since then. We have rather a lot of tardiness. At this moment we can say that we will have another season without coal quality standards, which is another unfulfilled promise of the government in this respect.

Earlier, I looked with great hope at announcements related to the Clean Air Program. Now with every month I see that we are increasingly moving in the sphere of declarations and not specific changes and actions. There were no coal quality standards and they will probably not be there this heating season. Changes should be introduced a long time ago. The Ministry of Energy works very slowly. Regarding the selection of the consultation period, we are dealing with a Polish affliction. If we want some bill to go unnoticed, it is best to consult the consultations during the summer weekend when no one is at work and then no comments or comments will be received.

Interview conducted by Piotr Stępiński