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EUR 68.5 million for refusing to obey highest EU court and halt mining at its Turów coal mine

Poland has racked up EUR 68.5 million in fines for operating its PGE-owned Turów coal mine for 137 days in breach of an order from the Court of Justice of the European Union. 

The Court ruled on 21 May 2021 that operations at the controversial coal mine must pause to prevent irreversible environmental damage, while it heard a Czech lawsuit brought against Poland in February 2021 in response to Poland’s decision to illegally prolong the mine’s licence. 

The mine has been dug right up to the Czech and German borders, and continues to damage local water supplies and housing in neighbouring communities.

However, the Czech government angered local people in February 2022 when it accepted EUR 45 million in compensation from the Polish government and coal company PGE, in exchange for dropping its lawsuit. 

The deal was struck mere hours after an advisor to the Court of Justice of the European Union sided with the European Commission's view that Poland breached EU law when extending Turów’s licence without carrying out an environmental impact assessment. 

The Czech government has argued that the deal includes a provision for restoring water supplies for local Czech communities. However, the plan is centred around the construction of an underground wall that experts, and even the mine’s owner, PGE, have said will not work. 

Despite the two nations striking a deal, and the Polish government's insistence that it won’t pay the court’s fines, Poland is paying the EUR 68.5 million bill in the form of deductions from EU budgets that it would normally receive from the European Commission.

Instead of being wasted on fines and compensation, this money would be much better spent helping local communities around Turów transition fairly, away from uneconomic, polluting coal that has no future, towards a modern, healthy, renewable energy-powered economy this decade.

Today, Turów continues to operate illegally and Czech people living close to the mine remain thirsty for justice. 

The case against Turów:

  • Turów's licence is based on a faulty and unfinished environmental impact assessment and has already been found to be in breach of EU laws by the European Commission.
  • The Czechia-Poland deal will do little to stop Turów from damaging people’s houses and endangering access to drinking water for thousands of families on the Czech side of the border. Water levels fell by eight metres in 2020 alone; double that which PGE claimed would happen by 2044
  • Independent studies show that Poland's electricity grid can function without Turów from 2027 onwards, and that it would be cheaper to build a renewables-based alternative to the current Turów mine and plant complex, with such a strategy creating more jobs in the region than are currently provided by the coal sector.
  • Poland is supposed to be the biggest beneficiary of the Just Transition Fund, receiving approximately EUR 3.5 billion to help with its energy transition. But unlike almost every other country in the EU, it has so far refused to consider a managed coal phase out this decade, and wants to keep Turów open until 2044. This will mean coal regions like Bogatynia (where Turów is located) will lose much needed EU financial support to undertake the unavoidable transition away from coal.
  • “Poland’s ambassador to Czechia was 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 unwilling to protect its citizens’ rights, and that the European Commission appears content to sit idly by, despite confirming that Turów is operating in breach of EU law”

    Zala Primc, Europe Beyond Coal campaigner


    Check out how much 🇵🇱 taxpayer 💰 has been wasted by @MorawieckiM refusing to respect EU law & pause mining at #Turow: https://beyond-coal.eu/turow-counter
    Coal has no future in the EU beyond 2030. Fighting this reality harms people, the climate, & 🇵🇱's economy. It's not worth it #BeyondCoal


    Further information:

    Water or Coal
    Stop Turów
    PGE’s misinformation campaign vs facts

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