31 August 2023

Polish court ducks opportunity to reign in PGE at Turów

WARSAW, 31 August 2023 – Warsaw’s Administrative Court has suspended proceedings on Turów coal mine’s sham environmental impact assessment (EIA) that its owner PGE requires for its licence renewal. The verdict leaves local communities, already battered by water shortages, subsidence and dust, to stare down the barrel of a further twenty years of mining, while they await the claimants’ appeal. 

Turów is wedged between communities in Czechia, Germany and Poland. The verdict resulted from a lawsuit brought by NGOs from all sides and the German city of Zittau [1], which stated that the EIA’s adoption was illegal due to its failure to address cross-border harm caused by the mine. Turów has previously been the focus of a Czechia-Poland lawsuit at the European Court of Justice [2], with the two countries reaching a 45 million euro settlement in Czechia’s favour. 

We are disappointed that the court waved the opportunity to hold PGE accountable today, but it won’t deter us from continuing to seek justice for those most acutely impacted by this illegal mine. The Polish government and PGE are the exclusive architects of chaos in the Turów region. They forced through the unlawful environmental impact assessment, they operated the mine without a licence, and they incurred 68 million euros in fines as a consequence. All evidence says Turów is fast approaching its end. We will use all available legal tools to compel the government to prepare a closure plan for Turów to ensure a prosperous future for the region,” said Agnieszka Stupkiewicz, attorney-at-law at Frank Bold.

The failure to prepare a coal phase out strategy has already cost the Bogatynia region over 200 million euros in EU funds. Eastern Greater Poland is a lignite region of similar size to Turów with a commitment to phase out coal by 2025 and it’s already received 415 million euros. Each day that PGE and the Polish government fight the future comes at a huge cost to people in the region and the climate,” said Radosław Gawlik, president at Polish environmental NGO EKO-Unia.

Poland’s government claims that Turów is necessary for the country’s energy security, but overwhelming evidence points to the contrary. Poland installed more than two Turów’s worth of solar power capacity last year, and the clean energy rollout is only just getting started. Turów can’t close overnight, but the affordability and desirability of renewables means its end is indisputably close at hand. That’s why Turów urgently needs a closure plan, to safeguard workers and the region,” said Michał Zabłocki, campaigner at Beyond Fossil Fuels.

Even as the court was passing its ruling, Turów was draining water from Czech territory. The underground wall included in last year’s Czech-Polish deal has done nothing to prevent this. Paradoxically, it’s the Polish courts that are doing more to protect affected communities in Czechia than their own government. After receiving compensation from its inter-state dispute, the Czech government has washed its hands of Turów,” said Nikol Krejcova, campaigner at Greenpeace Czechia.

ENDS

Contacts:

Izabela Urbańska, Comms Coordinator, Frank Bold Poland
[email protected], +48 509 209 470 

Radosław Gawlik, president of the EKO-UNIA Ecological Association,
[email protected] , +48 605 037 417, 

Michał Zabłocki, Communications and Campaign Consultant, Beyond Fossil Fuels, [email protected], +48 500 126 685

Nikol Krejčová, Campaigner, Greenpeace Czechia,
[email protected], +420 778 002 468

Notes:

  1. The lawsuit was filed by  Frank Bold, Greenpeace, EkoUnia, and the German city of Zittau.
  2. https://beyondfossilfuels.org/2023/02/03/a-year-after-a-worthless-deal-pge-delivers-nothing-for-turow-locals/
  3. According to lawyers at Frank Bold, the Czech-Polish agreement is in breach of three European laws: Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (“EIA Directive“), Directive 2004/35/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage (“ELD”) and Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003 on public access to environmental information and repealing Council Directive 90/313/EEC.
  4. Turow has cost Poland €110 million to-date: €68 million in fines from the European Court of Justice, and €45 million in compensation to Czechia as part of the Polish-Czech settlement. 
  5. The Just Transition Fund is supplying a total of €3.85 billion to high-carbon regions throughout Poland to support them in their transition to carbon neutrality. 
  6. According to the latest monthly coal brief from Polish energy think-tank Instrat, emission-free sources (solar, wind and hydro) provided more power to Poland’s energy mix than lignite between March and June 2023. https://instrat.pl/en/coal-brief-poland-by-energy-instrat-pl-june-2023/
  7. In 2020 Poland extended the lignite mining concession for six years without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment, as demanded by the EU law. The European Commission found that Poland infringed the EU EIA Directive, as confirmed by the Advocate-General in his opinion of 3 February 2022. 

About: 

Beyond Fossil Fuels is a collective civil society campaign committed to ensuring all of Europe’s electricity is generated from fossil-free, renewable energy by 2035. It expands and builds upon the Europe Beyond Coal campaign, and its goal of a coal-free Europe in power and heat by 2030 at the latest. www.beyondfossilfuels.org

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