On April 6, the Polish response to a request for the immediate closure of the PGE's Turów lignite mine was submitted to the Court of Justice of the European Union. PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna considers the Czech government's demands as a dangerous precedent carrying a serious risk of a ‘predatory’ energy transition in contrast to just transition promoted by the European Commission. The international legal battle brought by the Czech authorities over the future of the PGE GiEK's power complex in Turów threatens the future of the European Green Deal.
The Czech government's demand for the closure of the mine and its complaint to the CJEU challenge the fundamental assumptions of just transition and carry a serious risk of the collapse of the Polish power system, as well as the collapse of the entire region in Poland located at the border with the Czech Republic and Germany.
The threat of suddenly shutting down an energy complex that supplies up to 7% of the energy consumed in Poland and covers 3 million households, raises questions about European solidarity. In practice, the closure of the mine will also mean shutting down the Turów power plant which may threaten the livelihoods of up to 80,000 Polish citizens. The proceedings pending before the Court are a consequence of granting PGE GiEK a concession issued a year ago by the Polish Ministry of Climate. The concession extending the mine's operation was issued in compliance with Polish and European law, after several years of cross-border consultations with the Czech Republic and Germany. President of PGE GiEK, Wioletta Czemiel-Grzybowska believes the future success of just transition across the whole European Union will depend on the CJEU ruling in the Turów case.
‘Predatory’ energy transition is extremely dangerous and contradicts the planned, stable and just transition envisaged by the European Union under the Green Deal. 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. 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, says Wioletta Czemiel-Grzybowska, President of PGE GiEK.
The complaint makes allegations of unreliable environmental studies and violation of the interests of Czech citizens. According to the complainants, the Turów mine has a detrimental impact on the border regions as it lowers the water levels and causes the formation of landslides in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, the explanatory memorandum emphasises that the power plant, so far supplied with coal by the Turów mine, could actually continue to operate after the mine closure by switching to fuel imported from Czech or German mines.
The complaint makes a reference to an alleged expansion of the Turów mine. 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. 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. The concerns presented by all stakeholders have been duly considered in the process and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Although there is no evidence to suggest that the mine is contributing to the Czech water deficit, we have been closely monitoring water levels in more than 500 boreholes on all sides of the border for many years. We are also completing the construction of an underground slurry cut-off wall to stop the potential flow of water from the Czech territory at a depth of 60 to 110 m, explains the Director of the Turów mine, Sławomir Wochna.
PGE GiEK believes that the complaints filed with the CJEU may prove that national interests are placed above the European Green Deal arrangements . This leads to an unfair treatment of the Polish lignite mine in Turów, whose environmental impact is incomparably lower than that of the much larger mines still in operation in the Czech Republic and Germany.
International efforts against the Turów complex are nullifying efforts in Poland to persuade the public to accept the Green Deal and actively participate in its implementation. The PGE Group, including the Turów power complex, has already began to implement the climate commitments made by the European Union Member States. The implementation of the Green Deal requires huge short-term investments and plans to upgrade the power sector in the long term. These plans must take into account different national energy models and the uneven pace of just transition, in line with the European Commission’s commitment to ensure that transition is safe and fair for the regions involved.