Poland to curb imports of low-quality coal to fight air pollution

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland plans to curb imports of unsorted coal to improve the material its citizens use to warm their homes during winter and improve air quality in heavily polluted cities, the energy ministry said late on Wednesday.

Cities such as fast-modernizing Warsaw, industrial Katowice and medieval Krakow are among the most polluted in Europe, mostly from airborne dust particles.

Poland produces most of its electricity from highly-polluting coal in outdated power plants, while Poles use low-quality material to fire stoves to warm their homes in winter.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party promotes coal as the basic source of energy and has taken actions to boost demand for coal, which it has in excess, to help its troubled mining firms.

However, the energy ministry plans to implement number of regulations aimed at cutting pollution, including monitoring of the quality of solid fuel, which would hit Russian coal imports at a time of deteriorating relations with Poland’s former Soviet overlord.

“Importers will be forced to allow imports to Poland only of sorted coal. According to energy ministry data, until November 2016 Poland imported 7.2 million tonnes of coal. The biggest chunk, 4.61 million tonnes, came from Russian Federation,” the ministry said in a statement.

Sorted coal is a coal controlled for size, without small, pollution-creating particles.

Poland produced about 70 million tonnes of coal last year.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Lidia Kelly and David Goodman