01 February 2022

Polish court ruling curbs PGE’s plan to mine at Turow until 2044

Warsaw, 1 February 2022 – A Warsaw court has ruled that Polish authorities were wrong to implement an Environmental Impact Assessment at PGE’s Turow coal mine with immediate effect. The ruling effectively blocks the highly controversial 23-year licence extension that Polish utility PGE thought it had secured for its mine. 

Europe Beyond Coal’s partner organisations Frank Bold and Greenpeace, challenged in court the speed with which the mine’s environmental permit was adopted on the basis that the rushed EIA process all but denied local citizen groups their right, under EU law, to comment on the plans. Today’s Polish court ruling comes after the European Commission said Poland had breached EU laws during the EIA process [1]. Several NGOs are also challenging the refusal by the Polish Minister of Environment to allow them to participate in the 2026 mining licensing proceedings [2]. 

The transboundary environmental consultation process at Turów was something of a sham, and the decision of Polish authorities to immediately enforce the environmental permit, all but denying citizens’ groups any chance of appeal, has rightly been found to be illegal. Today’s decision puts a brake on PGE’s plans to extend Turow’s mining licence to 2044. We will now make full use of our right to oppose it in the courts,” said Hubert Smolinski, lawyer at Frank Bold Poland. 

This Thursday, the Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) is expected to give his opinion on Czechia’s lawsuit against Poland concerning Turow. It comes as the  European Commission is considering withholding budget payments to Poland [3] after the latter refused to pay almost 68 million euros in fines [4], which it has accrued for refusing to halt operations at the site. Meanwhile, the Polish government continues to pursue an out-of-court settlement worth 50 million euros to the Czech Republic [5], but the Czech government is under pressure to ensure that any future deal forces its Polish counterpart to make good on its environmental and legal wrongdoings. 

Today’s court verdict isn’t the only problem facing PGE and the Turów mine. In another legal proceeding, the environmental decision itself is being contested, and if it gets repealed, the environmental impact assessment process will have to start all over again. Instead of unlawfully speeding up the investment process in the interest of the coal lobby, the Polish government should focus on developing a just transition plan for the region, and setting a 2030 coal phase out date,” said Joanna Flisowska, head of climate and energy unit at Greenpeace Poland.

The Polish government and PGE are engaging in all sorts of illegal tricks to try to slow the speed of the energy transition at Turów and across Poland. This is saddling Polish taxpayers with millions of euros in fines, as well as state aid to keep loss-making coal afloat. Moreover, millions of euros that should be coming in the door courtesy of EU support to exit coal, is being frittered away because of the government’s refusal to accept the coal era is winding up,” said Zala Primc, campaigner at Europe Beyond Coal. “Every single other EU country has seen sense and announced a coal exit plan – most by the end of this decade. Even Polish regional government’s are setting 2030 coal exit targets. Only the Polish government is denying reality.”

END

CONTACTS

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

Hubert Smolińsk, Lawyer, Frank Bold
[email protected], +48 693 392 693

Joanna Flisowska, Head of climate and energy, Greenpeace Poland
[email protected], +48 698 693 170

Zala Primc, campaigner, Europe Beyond Coal
[email protected], + 386 (0)40 981 828

NOTES

  1. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_2452
  2. NGOs are currently awaiting a ruling by Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court. 
  3. https://www.dw.com/en/eu-to-withhold-funds-for-poland-over-turow-coal-mine/a-60486445
  4. Poland refused to pay Turow 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/
  5. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202201/1246653.shtml
  6. Court decision (Polish). Enter the following case number in first field:
    IV SA/Wa 1197/21
    Informacja o sprawach – Wojewódzki Sąd Administracyjny w Warszawie (warszawa.wsa.gov.pl)
  7. More on the approval of the EIA and Polish authorities’ decision to declare it immediately enforceable: https://beyond-coal.eu/2020/01/28/polish-authorities-ignore-german-submissions-and-approve-turow-mine-expansion-permit/

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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