By Hana Namrouqa – Jun 23,2016

AMMAN — Environmental campaigners are collecting signatures for a petition to stop plans to establish Jordan’s first power plant to run on coal.

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources “slammed the country’s laws against the wall” when it announced plans to build the coal-fuelled power plant without conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA), says activist Safa Jayoussi.

She heads the climate campaign at IndyACT, the Arab environmental NGO organising the petition against the plant because of concerns it will damage the environment as well as public health.

“We call on the government to check the local laws and to stop any construction on the project until an EIA is carried out,” Jayoussi told The Jordan Times.

She criticised the ministry for failing to consult environmental NGOs and the local community of Qatraneh in Karak Governorate, where the plant will be established.

“Even with the deployment of state-of-the-art technology, a power plant running on coal will pollute the air with emissions of sulphur dioxide and heavy metals,” added Jayoussi, who is also the Arab world coordinator for the Climate Action Network.

The petition organised by IndyACT calls on the public to join in its efforts to protect Jordan from pollution, and states that with sufficient political will, the Kingdom can meet all its energy needs from renewable sources.

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the Modern Cement and Mining Company (Al Manaseer) signed a memorandum of understanding to construct the coal-fuelled power plant earlier in June.

Under the memo, construction of the 30-megawatt plant will begin in July and will be completed in two years.

Al Manaseer will build the power plant, and once completed, it will supply the company’s cement factory in Qatraneh, reducing its electricity bill.

Energy Ministry Spokesperson Haydar Gammaz said the ministry required the company to abide by all the basic conditions for using coal, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment.

“The new plant will be built in line with the highest international standards to protect the environment,” Gammaz told The Jordan Times.

Highlighting that the coal will be imported from international markets including the US, Russia and countries in Africa, the spokesperson noted that if the coal-fuelled power plant is successful, others will be built.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment said on Sunday that it was waiting for Al Manaseer to provide it with the measures it will undertake to implement the EIA.

“The ministry officially contacted the company earlier this month and demanded that an EIA of the power plant be implemented. The ministry is waiting for the study to be carried out,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Isa Shboul, told The Jordan Times.

Alternative energy manager at the Modern Cement and Mining Company, Hazem Qaqish, noted that the memo signed with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources considers the project as a case study in electricity generation using coal and petroleum coke in Jordan.

In addition, the memo calls for collaborative efforts by all involved parties to study the technical, environmental and logistic requirements before construction of power plant commences, according to Qaqish.

“The initial requirements of the Ministry of Environment and the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment study are under preparation. It [the ESIA] has been contracted to the Royal Scientific Society to conduct… The outcomes of this study will be considered and implemented in the project,” he told The Jordan Times.

Regarding the project’s environmental concerns, Qaqish highlighted that the company has taken into consideration the local emission requirements as well as the emission levels of the World Bank and the EU in the power plant’s design and selection of its equipment.

“For each type of emission and pollutant, the most stringent requirement was selected. Other requirements arising from the ESIA will also be considered accordingly,” Qaqish said.