Polish utility PGE will have operated its sprawling Turów lignite mine illegally for one year this coming Saturday 1 May, despite the European Commission confirming that the licensing process for the mine breaks at least two EU laws. The mine pushes up to the Czech and German borders, depleting water supplies and damaging nearby houses, and has led local communities and authorities in the Czech Republic and Germany to file complaints with the European Commission which has so far failed to act.
On April 28, Poland approved a 23-year extension to the Turow coal mine’s licence, allowing PGE to keep operating until 2044 against EU laws.
The mine is now the focus of an unprecedented Czech lawsuit  against Poland, and a new call today from 25 NGOs and citizens, urging President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans  to hold Polish authorities accountable, and initiate an infringement procedure against Poland.
Poland is set to receive the lion’s share of the EU’s €17.5 billion Just Transition Fund, but PGE’s plan to extend Turów’s licence could see Poland’s Bogatynia region miss out on the funding, as it would not be demonstrating that it is exiting coal . Two independent studies show how Poland’s electricity grid can function without Turów from 2027 onwards , with one showing it would be over EUR 14 billion cheaper to build a renewables-based alternative to the current Turów mine and plant complex, and would create more jobs.
Mikuláš Peksa, Member of the European Parliament’s Greens/European Free Alliance parliamentary group, said:
“The quality of life of Czech and German citizens living near the mine is declining rapidly, and some of them are experiencing soil subsidence and loss of drinking water. A recent study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air revealed Turów caused an estimated 120 premature deaths in 2017, and 51,000 days of sick leave from work. The task of the European Union is to protect all its citizens, regardless of borders. Turów without doubt violates European law. The excavators should have stopped a long time ago, and it is a huge mistake on the part of the European Commission that this has not happened yet.”
Anna Cavazzini, Member of the European Parliament’s Greens/European Free Alliance parliamentary group, said:
“It is the responsibility of the European Commission to enforce compliance with EU law by all the Member States. The time has come for it to use all the tools at its disposal to protect local citizens and the local environment. We, therefore, ask the European Commission to initiate an infringement procedure against Poland and to work to find a lasting solution between the three neighbouring countries.”
Kristína Šabová, Lawyer at Frank Bold, said:
“The European Commission should have started infringement proceedings more than a year ago, but its failure has left Czech people suffering a further eight-metre drop in their groundwater levels. It shouldn’t require a state-on-state lawsuit to uphold EU laws. EU citizens need to have confidence in the system, which ensures their equal rights and can prevent conflicts between member states.”
Riccardo Nigro, Campaign coordinator on coal combustion and mines at the European Environmental Bureau, said:
“The European Commission’s inaction is letting PGE deprive Czech, and German citizens of their basic rights, such as access to water and a safe home, and is compromising Polish coal communities’ access to vital transition funds. It’s time for the Commission to hold Poland accountable. The Polish government needs to read the room, stop clinging to a redundant, illegal mine, and help protect and transition all communities around Turow to a fairer and cleaner future.”
Zala Primc, Campaigner at Europe Beyond Coal, said
“Poland’s approval of a 23-year extension to the Turow coal mine’s licence, based on a faulty and unfinished environmental impact assessment process, and when its current licence has already been found to be illegal by the European Commission and is the focus of a state-on-state lawsuit with the European Court of Justice, shows a total disregard for EU law. While state-owned coal company PGE runs a misinformation campaign about Turow in Brussels, the Polish government is giving its illegal mining cover at home. The European Commission needs to stop sitting idly by and enforce EU law to protect citizens and EU climate action plans.”
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
The dispute over the legality of operations at Turów relates to the Polish government’s decisions to grant a licence extension for the mine to 2026 without carrying out a public consultation or Environmental Impact Assessment, and to process a second PGE licence extension application to 2044, despite Czech, German and Polish stakeholders raising serious concerns about the plans, and the management of the Environmental Impact Assessment for this second extension.