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Advisor to EU Court says Poland infringed EU law when extending licence for Turow mine

An advisor to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) has said that Poland infringed EU law by extending the licence for its Turow coal mine without carrying out an environmental impact assessment. A final verdict by the CJEU is expected by the spring.

The Advocate General gave their opinion on an unprecedented Czech lawsuit [1], filed last year in response to Poland’s decision to extend the licence of PGE’s Turów coal mine, despite failing to properly execute both the necessary public consultation and environmental impact assessment. The European Commission has stated that EU law was violated in the process of prolonging Turów’s licence [2], but despite this, and a court order of a temporary halt to operations at the site, PGE continues to mine at Turów, incurring a €500,000 daily fine [3]. 

The Advocate General’s opinion is a relief to those of us living next to the mine. We’ve long said that Turów’s licences were issued illegally, and can now be confident that the first step towards achieving justice is at hand,” said Milan Starec, a Czech citizen from Liberec region (Uhelná village). “Groundwater levels in the area have fallen by eight metres in 2020 alone, courtesy of the mine: double the amount PGE said would happen by 2044. But the lawsuit brought by the Czech government does not tackle the water shortages we are suffering. The worst thing that could happen now is that our government strikes a backroom deal with its Polish counterpart without any action to remediate the damage caused by the mine.

The Advocate General’s opinion reflects that of the European Commission, and comes only two days after a Polish court effectively blocked the mine’s 23-year licence extension. The Polish government and PGE would do well to realise that it’s only going to be more of the same from here on in. Fortunately for them, studies show a switch to renewable energy at Turów would not only create more jobs, but also reduce energy costs, and end the region’s water and air quality crises. All they need to do is take responsibility for the legal and environmental damage they have caused, stop pretending that there is any chance of mining at Turów until 2044, and plan for the region to transition in a fair and just way by 2030,” said Katarzyna Kubiczek, EKO-UNIA Ecological Association.  

 “Poland is the only country in the EU not to have announced a coal exit plan. Most will be coal-free by 2030. Instead, the Polish government and PGE are trying every trick in the book to delay the energy transition at Turów, and have racked up over 68 million euros in fines for their efforts. Resisting coal’s inevitable demise this decade only hurts coal workers, taxpayers and citizens,” said Zala Primc, campaigner at Europe Beyond Coal. 

NOTES

  1. Advocate General’s opinion: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2022-02/cp220023en.pdf
  2. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_2452
  3. Poland refused to pay Turów fines: https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/poland-will-not-comply-with-eu-top-court-ruling-on-turow-pm-says/
    Turow fine counter: http://beyond-coal.eu/turow-counter/
  4. Polish government continues to pursue an out-of-court settlement worth 50 million euros to the Czech Republic: https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202201/1246653.shtml
  5. The Czech lawsuit at the CJEU is questioning the legality and procedural aspects of issuing the 2026 and 2044 Turów mining licences, not the damages to Czech territory and water supplies. https://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=240041&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=962817
  6. On 1 February a Polish court annulled the immediate enforceability of the Environmental Impact Assessment, effectively blocking the highly controversial 23-year licence extension that Polish utility PGE thought it had secured for the Turów mine. https://beyond-coal.eu/2022/02/01/polish-court-ruling-curbs-pges-plan-to-mine-at-turow-until-2044/ 

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Our organizations jointly counteract the expansion of the open-cast Turów lignite mine in Poland for the benefit of local communities, nature and climate. We support civic activities undertaken by the international community at the interface of the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. We strive to make the lignite-dependent Bogatynia enter the path of energy transition as well as economic and social transformation.

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