25 October 2022

European Commission urged to uphold EU law at Poland’s Turów coal mine

BRUSSELS, 25 OCTOBER 2022 – Czech and German NGOs filed a complaint to the European Commision today, calling on it to initiate infringement proceedings against the Czech-Polish agreement concerning Poland’s Turów coal mine. The mine is draining nearby water supplies and damaging people’s houses as it operates in violation of EU law.  

According to the complainants, the agreement ignores the environmental emergency that the Polish mine is causing on Czech territory, and the impacts it is having on Czech citizens. They also criticise the Czech government for agreeing to drop its lawsuit against Poland at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in exchange for a one-off payment [1] and the fact that it hasn’t yet filed another lawsuit against Poland over Turów. 

The PGE-operated mine is wedged between communities in Czechia, Germany and Poland, and has already caused water levels in the region to fall more than twice the amount that its flawed Environmental Impact Assessment predicts dropping by 2044 [2].

We understand that Poland needs energy, but there are many ways this can be produced without denying our rights to water and damaging the environment. Water is a giver of life. Coal takes this away. That’s why we are asking the Commission to act now, before it is too late,” said Milan Starec, member of local environmental group Sousedský spolek Uhelná.

The Czech government very quickly and without transparency agreed to a deal with Poland that traded its citizens’ rights and the Czech environment for money. In the process, it also helped PGE get away with persistent violations of EU law at Turów. PGE and the Polish government still don’t understand that they need to respect EU law at Turów,” said Nikol Krejčová, campaigner at Greenpeace Czech Republic.

The Czech government has agreed to an illegal situation on its own territory, and forfeited its ability to do anything about it. It tied its own hands behind its back. Now, the only authority that can ensure local people get justice is the European Commission,” said Petra Kalenská, lawyer at Frank Bold Society.

Every day that Turów continues to operate, the situation for people in neighbouring communities gets worse. In towns like Zittau, people’s houses are being destabilised and the mine is causing cracks to appear in their walls. The European Commission shouldn’t be sitting by, allowing this situation to further deteriorate,” said Prof. Dr. Dr. Felix Ekardt, Chairman of the board of BUND Sachsen.

ENDS

Contacts:

Michal Zablocki, Communications and Campaign Consultant, Europe Beyond Coal
[email protected], +48 500 126 685

Milan Starec, Sousedský spolek Uhelná (local association in Uhelná), Spokesperson
[email protected], +420 602 462 432

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

Petra Kalenská, Lawyer, Frank Bold Society
[email protected], +420 771 230 315

Yelena Zimdahl, Spokeswoman, BUND Sachsen
[email protected],+49 351 847 544 62

Notes:

  1. Details of the deal to end the Czech lawsuit at the CJEU: https://beyond-coal.eu/2022/02/03/czechia-poland-Turów-coal-mine-deal-leaves-czech-locals-thirsty-for-justice/
  2. More on Turów’s flawed EIA: https://beyond-coal.eu/2022/10/10/flawed-Turów-coal-mine-assessment-gets-green-light/
  3. Turów supplies coal to the nearby PGE-owned Turów lignite power plant. It emitted over 5.8 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020. The Polish government wants to operate both until 2044, a move that is incompatible with Poland’s climate targets: https://climate.ec.europa.eu/eu-action/eu-emissions-trading-system-eu-ets/union-registry_en#tab-0-1 
  4. 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. 
  5. Residents of Uhelná tried to legally challenge the Czech-Polish agreement in the Czech Constitutional Court. The court however dismissed it on the grounds it was outside of its jurisdiction to deal with the interstate settlement. 

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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