As World Debates Climate, Czechs Embrace Heavy Pollutant (Associated Press/New York Times – December 7, 2015)

CSA MINE, Czech Republic — While world leaders try to reach a deal to limit climate change, one of the most polluting fossil fuels, brown coal, is enjoying a revival in the Czech Republic, where entire villages are threatened by new plans for mining.

The Czech Republic is one of a group of countries that is turning to coal, a cheap but dirty energy source, as its economy slows. Neighboring Poland, which has big deposits, is doing so, as is China, the world’s biggest energy consumer.

The Czech variety of the coal, called brown coal or lignite, is a particularly bad source of greenhouse gases and pollutants.

With support from the president, labor unions and regional leaders and against the protests of environmentalists and local citizens, the Czech government approved in October an increase to mining limits of brown coal in the northwest of the country.

The government is eager to access up to 120 million metric tons of brown coal, which it says is needed to secure the country’s energy supply. Last year, the Czech Republic mined 38.8 million metric tons, down 5.5 percent from the previous year.

“We will need this coal for the heating industry, power plants and households,” Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said.

It is the first time the country has eased the limits on brown coal mining that it put in place in 1991, two years after the collapse of the communist regime, which relied heavily on industry and mining. The limits were meant to prevent environmental damage and protect local communities. Under communism, dozens of towns and villages had been eradicated to make space for coal mining.

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