Greenpeace charges Greece with irresponsible use of lignite

Environmental organization Greenpeace yesterday slammed Greece for its high dependence on lignite for its energy needs, charging that instead of planning its weaning from it, it continues to subsidize its use. In a report titled «The End of Lignite and the Transition to a New Energy Era,» Greenpeace speaks of a «blatant contempt of international agreements that dictate the restriction of the emission of greenhouse gases that lead to climatic change.» The report says that the use of lignite by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) produces 43 million tons of carbon dioxide, which represents 40 percent of the country’s total emissions of the gas. According to Greenpeace, the government, abandoning a policy of recent years, recently decided to allow the use of lignite, one of the most polluting fossil fuels, in the private production of electricity by issuing a tender for the tapping of deposits in Vevi, western Macedonia. Moreover, the report charges that even before the ink dried on the August issue of the Government Gazette, which published the law on the setting of a tax on lignite after a warning by the EU, «the government is said to be preparing the exemption of lignite from this tax, wishing in effect to rid PPC of an annual cost of 105 million euros, but also Vevi’s prospective suitors of a burden that would make their future investment less attractive.» Countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol are subject to stiff fines if they exceed carbon dioxide limits. But apart from carbon dioxide, PPC lignite-fired stations also emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particles, heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The amount of dangerous particles in the atmosphere in Kozani, the city which neighbors the country’s biggest lignite-fired power station, exceeds the official limits at almost any time of day. The average annual level is 70 mg/m3, against a limit of 40 mg/m3. The average level of PCBs in the area is 30 mg/m3, while in Athens it is 3.7 mg/m3. Recent surveys in the area have found a high incidence of a number of vascular ailments among 3,559 children aged 9-12.