03 February 2022

Czechia-Poland Turów coal mine deal leaves Czech locals thirsty for justice

PRAGUE, 3 February 2022 – The Czech government has angered local people by accepting 45 million euro in compensation from the Polish government and coal company PGE, in exchange for dropping its lawsuit over their illegally operating Turów coal mine at the EU court of justice (CJEU). The decision comes mere hours after the court’s Advocate General confirmed Poland infringed EU law when issuing Turow’s licence. The deal’s main provision for restoring water supplies relies on an underground wall that experts, and even the mine’s owner, PGE, say will not work. 

Today our government signed away our right to water. This deal has been reached in total secrecy, without the involvement of affected people like me. PGE’s botched underground wall will do nothing to resolve our water crisis,” said Milan Starec, local resident on behalf of the Uhelná Neighbourhood Association. “Our government has basically consented to environmental damage to its own territory, which is against Czech and EU law. It has a moral and legal duty to rescind this deal, and initiate proceedings for environmental damage with the European Commission.

The Polish government and PGE have been operating Turów in breach of a CJEU order for months, despite the court hitting the Polish government with a 500,000 euro daily fine [1]. So far, Poland has racked up over 68 million euros in fines, and with the government refusing to pay, the European Commission is considering withholding the amount in the form of EU budget payments [2].  

Poland’s ambassador to Czechia was recently recalled by his government for stating that PGE’s underground wall is not up to the job. This has since been confirmed by Czech geologists and PGE itself. Meanwhile, the EU’s court of justice and even a Polish court have confirmed that EU law was broken when licensing Turów. It’s a shame that the Czech government is unprepared to stand firm on its citizens’ rights,” said Zala Primc, Europe Beyond Coal campaigner. 

The only way forward at Turów is for the Polish government to remedy its legal and environmental wrongdoings, halt its expansion of the mine, and front up to workers, and people across the Zgorzelec region about the reality that Turów will close before 2030,” said Maria Wittels, Foundation Development YES — Open-pit Mines NO. “Polish coal, just like coal everywhere else in Europe, is in terminal decline; Turów is no exception. Studies show that a switch to renewable energy is the best way forward for the region, as it will create more jobs than coal, and they will be future-proof. Clinging to coal will just see the region miss out on millions of euros in EU funds to support a just transition, and lock-in a social and economic shock this decade.

ENDS

NOTES

  1. On 20 September the CJEU ruled that Poland would be fined €500,000 per day for disobeying the court’s ruling to temporarily halt operations at Turów: https://www.politico.eu/article/court-orders-warsaw-to-close-turow-mine-or-pay-daily-e500000-fine/. Turów fine counter: https://beyond-coal.eu/turow-counter/
  2. https://www.dw.com/en/eu-to-withhold-funds-for-poland-over-turow-coal-mine/a-60486445
  3. About the agreement: The 5 year contract between the Czech and Polish government has as its main water protection measure, an underground wall, which is currently under construction. Experts at T. G. Masaryk Water Research Institute and the Polish ambassador to Czechia, Mirosław Jasiński, criticised it as insufficient to secure supplies: a view effectively confirmed in a leaked PGE document obtained by environmental organisations today. The Polish government will pay 45 million euros in compensation, and in exchange the Czech government will be precluded from opening another case at the CJEU based on Art. 259 of TFEU – a lawsuit filed by one state against another based on the violation of EU law. The agreement states that Poland should review the prolonged (2026) and new (2044) mining licences against EU law, meaning it will be its own judge on the adequacy of its licensing processes, despite a Warsaw court, the CJEU, and the European Commission all confirming that Poland violated EU law when undertaking the prolongation of Turów’s original mining licence: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_2452
    https://beyond-coal.eu/2022/02/03/advisor-to-eu-court-says-poland-infringed-eu-law-when-extending-licence-for-turow-mine/
    https://beyond-coal.eu/2022/02/01/polish-court-ruling-curbs-pges-plan-to-mine-at-turow-until-2044/
  4. 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
  5. Turów is located in Poland’s Zgorzelec County and Bogatynia region. The European Commission has confirmed that the region will miss out on EU Just Transition Funds as it is not planning to start exiting coal by 2030. https://notesfrompoland.com/2021/02/25/unprecedented-czech-legal-challenge-to-polish-coal-mine-could-be-catastrophic-for-poland/
  6. Studies show that Poland’s electricity grid can accommodate a temporary halt to mining at Turów, and can function without it long-term from 2026. A renewables-based alternative would create more jobs and would produce the same amount of electricity in the next 25 years for €14 billion less.
    https://czyzak.net/polish-power-system-without-Turów/
    http://instrat.pl/en/coal-phase-out/
    https://kike.org.pl/strategia-transformacji-elektrowni-i-kopalni-w-turowie-raport-kike/
  7. Mythbusting on PGE’s claims regarding the Turów mine: https://stopturow.com/en1.php?dzial=2&kat=14&art=68

CONTACTS

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

Milan Starec, Local resident, Uhelná Neighbourhood Association
[email protected], +42 060 246 2432

Maria Wittels, Foundation Development YES — Open-pit Mines NO
[email protected], +48 534 634 889

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

ABOUT

Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to ensure a just transition to a fossil-free, fully renewables-based European energy sector. This means exiting coal entirely by 2030 at the latest, and fossil gas by 2035 in the power sector. We devote our time and resources to this independent campaign because we are committed to seeing a European energy system that protects people, nature and our global climate: www.beyond-coal.eu

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