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PGE responds to the Court of Justice: campaign against Turów mine threatens the European Green Deal

Polands’ Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), which owns and operates the Turów mine plant has submitted a response to the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the case of the mine, which is requested to close immediately.

Earlier in July, the Czech government turned to the European Commission and sued Poland for the expansion of the Turów lignite mine which, close to the near of the Czech and German border, has raised several concerns.

Now, PGE is looking at the Czech government’s demands as a dangerous precedent. According to PGE, the Czech authorities’ legal battle threatens the future of the European Green Deal: first, it challenges the fundamental assumptions of a just transition and secondly, it carries the risk of collapsing the region and the Polish power system, as the Turów energy complex ensures 7 per cent of the energy consumed in Poland reaching 3 million households.

In March, the mine was granted an extension of the mining license for the next six years by the Polish authorities. Now PGE strives to extend the concession for another 25 years until 2044, coinciding with the exhaustion of its coal deposits and the end of operation of the new 450 megawatts (MW) power unit, due to come online later this year. PGE argued that this extension was issued in compliance with Polish and European law, besides many years of consultation with the Czech Republic and Germany.

Predatory energy transition is extremely dangerous and contradicts the planned, stable and just transition envisaged by the European Union under the Green Deal,” said Wioletta Czemiel-Grzybowska, President of PGE GiEK. “Although the mechanisms for its implementation are still being negotiated by EU leaders, only one Polish mine is at the centre of international accusations. Although it is one of the smallest operations in the entire region dominated by Czech and German open-pit mines, it is Turów that could become a symbol of emerging gross injustice.”

“The uncontrolled and immediate collapse of the energy complex will inevitably lead to the destruction of communities throughout the region,” she added. “Meanwhile, much larger mines operating in the Czech Republic and Germany only several dozen kilometres away have a much greater impact on the environment and local communities.”

According to the main complaint, the mine lowers the water level and as a result, causes landslide formations in the Czech Republic. On the other hand, it is stated that the power plant – now supplied with coal from its own mine – could actually continue to operate after the mine closure by switching to fuel imported from Czech or German mines.

“The allegations against Poland and the Turów mine are a collection of inaccurate or manipulated statements some of which surfaced at the time the concession application was filed. There has been no plan to expand the mine for decades,” explained Sławomir Wochna, Director of the Turów mine. “Quite the opposite, the mining area is constantly shrinking and today more than half of the 1994 concession area has been permanently closed. Efforts to prolong the concession have lasted over 6 years. We have answered thousands of queries raised by the Czech and German neighbours during cross-border consultations.”

PGE believes that the complaints handed to the Court may prove that the whole case is about to place national interests above the European Green Deal, which causes an unfair treatment of the Polish mine, in addition to that, the Turów mine’s environmental impact is much lower than mines still in operation in the Czech Republic and Germany. 

Indeed, within what has been defined as Europe’s coal triangle, Germany and Poland alone are jointly responsible for more than half of the EU installed coal capacity and emissions from coal. But the move away from coal in one country will not count if neighbouring countries continue to produce energy from it.

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