Environmental Justice | ECESR Lawsuit for Stopping Coal Postponed to June 7 for Documents Review
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Environmental Justice | ECESR Lawsuit for Stopping Coal Postponed to June 7 for Documents Review

The Administrative Court of Justice postponed today the appeal submitted by ECESR to June 7 for the documents to be reviewed. The ECESR brought this action to ban the use of coal in power generation in general and against the coal industry in particular, in addition to doing away with the coal shipments imported so far.

A number of human rights organizations expressed deep concerns about the hazards of using coal for power generation through statements and letters sent to the Council of Ministers and a number of international bodies to stop the implementation of this resolution, which will bring, if applied, endless disasters. The Council of Ministers made that decision at its meeting on April 3, 2014 for coal to be included within the energy system in Egypt.

The orientation of cement companies operating in Egypt to use coal as an energy source is considered a flagrant aggression on the health and lives of the Egyptians. The process has begun under government auspices since the removed President Mohamed Morsi, and escalated significantly under the current government. It has launched, with the exception of the Ministry of Environment, a full-scale media campaign aimed at the promotion of coal as an alternative energy source in light of the dwindling supplies of natural gas, and petroleum derivatives as a result of the past policies that wasted Egypt resources for years.

In response, the ECESR appealed to the responsible executive bodies and sent them official correspondences to issue a decision preventing coal import with the purpose of using it in power generation, whether for cement plants or others. Needless to say, these bodies are liable for making such a decision since their legal responsibility is to protect the health and lives of citizens and the environment. Whereas these authorities did not respond to our claim, the ECESR resorted to the Administrative Court as the last defense wall to confront this aggression on the Egyptians’ lives. In this context, the ECESR’s lawyers brought an action before the Administrative Court of Justice against the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Commerce and Industry and a number of other concerned ministers. [1]

Lawsuit recitals

In their lawsuit, ECESR lawyers have explained the trend backed by the government towards the use of coal by the cement companies in Egypt; they pointed out to the environmental implications and the health hazards that could inflict the Egyptian citizens—naming the various diseases stemming from the use of coal according to the proven previous experience of the countries that used coal. The lawyers also pointed out to the facts of environmental pollution caused virtually by unloading and transportation of coal in Egyptian ports. They refuted the allegations of the need to use coal as an alternative energy and the claims of possible control over the effects that could cause damage to the environment.

The challenge submitted by the ECESR lawyers was based on the unconstitutionality [2] of the negative decision and its violation to the Environment Act [3]. In addition, the decision violates the international covenants and conventions ratified by Egypt: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. The challenge was also based on the defects related to cause, purpose, and the misuse of power.

The ECESR’s lawyers appealed the court to: first, accept the challenge; second, stop the implementation of the negative decision urgently and consequently the immediate halt of importing coal for use as an energy source; third, rescind the challenged decision and the consequent effects, particularly the government decisions or any permits allowing coal import.

ECESR provides alternative solutions

In a position paper ECESR submitted alternative solutions to the use of coal in power generation. There is an urgent need to reconsider the energy strategy in Egypt, in particular energy subsidy that devours the bulk of the annual state budget. Furthermore, this subsidy only services the companies and investors to a large extent, while the poor sectors do not benefit of such subsidies. In this regard, it is inevitable to reduce subsidies for energy-intensive consumption industries such as cement, glass and other industries. Doing this will not only save the great funds used to subsidize energy annually, but will contribute to the reduction of excessive energy consumption in these sectors. Studies have shown, even the conservative ones, that the high profitability of these industries will not be affected by the removal of energy subsidy.

In addition, the authorities should review the issue of exporting natural gas and initiate reforms in this area. Egypt exports one-third of its natural gas to Turkey, Jordan and Spain with prices less than the world prices, while the Ministry of Electricity and Energy is indebted by 6-billion US dollars to gas companies which export gas to Egypt with prices much higher than Egypt’s natural gas exports. Therefore, ECESR calls for the Egyptian government to review the natural gas agreements concluded with importing countries and to modify the price system. Experts estimated that the revenues could rise to $ 15 billion per year if such revisions were made.

There are also alternative sources of energy, which the government can explore. But the state continues to overlook the alternative sources of energy, not to mention the possibility of recycling the garbage and the use of renewable sources of energy. Hence, ECESR calls on the government to conduct a baseline study for the use of waste and recycling the garbage as a source of energy. Egypt, for instance, wastes tons of garbage, up to 9.5 million tons in Cairo alone per year, which can be used as an energy source in other countries. While Egypt is facing the problem of waste management, waste and garbage can be a strategic solution that deserves attention to address energy and waste management problem alike.

Although the financial cost in the use of coal alternatives will not be much different, the true cost of coal lies in the destruction of health and environment. The health hazards not only affect the residents of neighborhoods where cement plants are based, but the whole population with the great damage to water, air and health in the entire country, which will last for generations.

[1] lawsuit 31 731/68 lodged against the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, Minister of Commerce and Industry, the Minister of Petroleum & Mineral Wealth, Electricity Minister, Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, and President of Egypt Environment Affairs Agency (EEAA), all of them in his capacity, for challenging the negative decision and refraining from issuing a decision preventing the import and use of coal as a fuel source.

[2] Articles 18, 45, 46, 78, 79, 93, 99

[3] Environment Law 4/1994

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