29 April 2021

One year of European Commission inaction on the illegal Turów coal mine

BRUSSELS, 30 April 2021 – Polish utility PGE will have operated its sprawling Turów lignite mine illegally for one year this coming Saturday 1 May, despite the European Commission confirming that the licensing process for the mine breaks at least two EU laws. The mine pushes up to the Czech and German borders, depleting water supplies and damaging nearby houses, and has led local communities and authorities in the Czech Republic and Germany to file complaints with the European Commission which has so far failed to act.

The mine is now the focus of an unprecedented Czech lawsuit [1] against Poland, and a new call today from 25 NGOs and citizens, urging President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans [2] to hold Polish authorities accountable, and initiate an infringement procedure against Poland.

Poland is set to receive the lion’s share of the EU’s €17.5 billion Just Transition Fund, but PGE’s plan to extend Turów’s licence could see Poland’s Bogatynia region miss out on the funding, as it would not be demonstrating that it is exiting coal [3]. Two independent studies show how Poland’s electricity grid can function without Turów from 2027 onwards [4], with one showing it would be over EUR 14 billion cheaper to build a renewables-based alternative to the current Turów mine and plant complex, and would create more jobs.

Zala Primc, campaigner at Europe Beyond Coal

“Poland’s approval of a 23-year extension to Turow coal mine’s licence is based on a faulty and unfinished environmental impact assessment. Its current licence has already been found to be illegal by the European Commission and is the focus of a state-on-state lawsuit with the European Court of Justice. Poland’s actions show a total disregard for EU law. While state-owned coal company PGE runs a misinformation campaign about Turow in Brussels and Prague, the Polish government is giving its illegal mining cover at home. The European Commission needs to stop sitting idly by and enforce EU law to protect citizens and EU climate action plans.”

Mikuláš Peksa, Member of the European Parliament’s Greens/European Free Alliance parliamentary group said:

“The quality of life of Czech and German citizens living near the mine is declining rapidly, and some of them are experiencing soil subsidence and loss of drinking water. A recent study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air revealed Turów caused an estimated 120 premature deaths in 2017, and 51,000 days of sick leave from work. The task of the European Union is to protect all its citizens, regardless of borders. Turów without doubt violates European law. The excavators should have stopped a long time ago, and it is a huge mistake on the part of the European Commission that this has not happened yet.” 

Anna Cavazzini, Member of the European Parliament’s Greens/European Free Alliance parliamentary group said:

“It is the responsibility of the European Commission to enforce compliance with EU law by all the Member States. The time has come for it to use all the tools at its disposal to protect local citizens and the local environment. We, therefore, ask the European Commission to initiate an infringement procedure against Poland and to work to find a lasting solution between the three neighbouring countries.” 

Kristína Šabová, Lawyer at Frank Bold said:
“The European Commission should have started infringement proceedings more than a year ago, but its failure has left Czech people suffering a further eight-metre drop in their groundwater levels. It shouldn’t require a state-on-state lawsuit to uphold EU laws. EU citizens need to have confidence in the system, which ensures their equal rights and can prevent conflicts between member states.”

Riccardo Nigro, campaign coordinator on coal combustion and mines at the European Environmental Bureau said:
“The European Commission’s inaction is letting PGE deprive Czech, and German citizens of their basic rights, such as access to water and a safe home, and is compromising Polish coal communities’ access to vital transition funds. It’s time for the Commission to hold Poland accountable. The Polish government needs to read the room, stop clinging to a redundant, illegal mine, and help protect and transition all communities around Turow to a fairer and cleaner future.”

 

CONTACTS:

Samuel Vančo, Assistant to MEP Mikuláš Peksa (English, Czech)
[email protected], +32 493 35 10 50

Jennifer Petzl, Local Assistant to MEP Anna Cavazzini (German, English)
[email protected], +49 157 738 63 787

Kristína Šabová,  Lawyer, Frank Bold (English, Czech)
[email protected], +420 720 565 672

Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Officer, European Environmental Bureau (English, Italian, French)
[email protected], +32 491 14 31 97

Alastair Clewer, Communications Officer, Europe Beyond Coal
[email protected], +49 176 433 07 185

 

NOTES

  1. The dispute over the legality of operations at Turów relates to the Polish government’s decisions to grant a licence extension for the mine to 2026 without carrying out a public consultation or Environmental Impact Assessment, and the decision to process a second PGE licence extension to 2044, despite Czech, German and Polish stakeholders raising serious concerns about the plans, and the management of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
  2. NGO joint letter to the European Commission: https://eeb.org/library/one-year-of-illegal-mining-in-turow-letter-to-the-european-commission/
  3. Turów is located in Poland’s Bogatynia region and the European Commission has previously indicated that the Bogatynia region could miss out on EU Just Transition Funds if plans are not made for the region to exit coal: https://notesfrompoland.com/2021/02/25/unprecedented-czech-legal-challenge-to-polish-coal-mine-could-be-catastrophic-for-poland/
  4. Two studies show Poland’s electricity grid can easily function without Turów from 2027, the first includes the renewables-based alternative scenario outlined above: https://kike.org.pl/strategia-transformacji-elektrowni-i-kopalni-w-Turówie-raport-kike/
    http://instrat.pl/en/coal-phase-out/
  5. The European Commission issued a reasoned opinion confirming the process for extending Turów’s licence breached EU laws, but has not taken any further action: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_2452
  6. Mythbusting document on Turow mine, developed by Polish Foundation “Development YES – Open-Pit Mines NO”: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RvY5RR6SBC4buoW42XsjowhOaWdROJm7Z6mvxU-ULxo/edit

 

ABOUT:

Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner. www.beyond-coal.eu

 

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