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Poland pays dearly for coal mining

The Court of Justice of the European Union has sentenced Warsaw to a daily fine of 500,000 euros until the Turów mine closes. The case follows a complaint from the Czech Republic that it is suffering from the environmental consequences of coal mining.

Between coal and respect for European legislation, Poland has clearly chosen coal. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) yesterday ordered Warsaw to pay a daily fine of half a million euros until it stops operating its lignite mine in Turów, located on the Czech border. This sanction follows a previous decision of the CJEU that ordered Poland, already in May, to suspend operations in this huge open-air mining. At that time, the Polish government decided to turn a deaf ear. Today, scream scandal. “This fine is disproportionate and unjustified,” said its spokesperson. “It is a judicial organized crime and a robbery in broad daylight. You will not have a penny, “thundered the Undersecretary of State for Justice, Marcin Romanowski.

Risks to drinking water

The origin of this case dates back to February. At the end of winter and after months of unsuccessful negotiations with Warsaw, Prague appealed to European justice to prevent an expansion of the mine and demand the cessation of its exploitation. In operation since 1904, the Turów mine has developed a stone’s throw from the Czech and German borders, getting closer and closer with successive extensions. The latest expansion project, which would have increased its area from 25 to 30 square kilometers to get closer to 100 meters from the Czech border, will have been too much.

In its complaint to the CJEU, Prague pointed to the lack of transparency, a poor assessment of the environmental risks posed by the mine and, above all, the endangerment of the drinking water supply of the Czech towns on the border. The institution ruled in his favor in May. In the absence of reaction from Warsaw, the Czech government (which in itself is not an example when it comes to the use of coal) then demanded economic sanctions. Prague demanded a fine of 5 million euros per day, so it will eventually be 500,000.

“Do not undermine the stability of the electrical system”

Although this is the greatest penalty ever imposed by the European institution, it does not seem enough to bring Poland down. The government confirmed yesterday that the mine will not close. In the spring, it even extended Turów’s operating license from 2026 to 2044, which should correspond to the depletion of the deposit. “Closing the mine would have negative consequences for the energy security of millions of Poles. We will keep the Turów site open so as not to undermine the stability of the electricity system, ”argued the government spokesperson. A large power plant is backed by the mine and powered by the lignite that comes out of it. This power station, also called Turów, alone produces 7% of Poland’s electricity and is also considered the fifth largest source of greenhouse gases in the country. In total, 80% of Poland’s electricity comes from coal, whether mined locally or imported.

Beyond environmental and energy issues, Warsaw’s reaction also reveals its at least ambiguous relationship with European justice. Poland had already been sentenced to daily fines of 100,000 euros in 2017, following illegal logging in the protected Bialowieza forest. He had not complied and the Commission decided to close its eyes. On this occasion, voices are being raised to ask Brussels to adopt a more determined attitude. Therefore, Greenpeace Czechia suggests that the Commission periodically deduct the amount of the fine from the European subsidies destined for Poland. In the coming days, other decisions could also hit Warsaw in the portfolio: the Commission requested financial sanctions following the Polish decision to maintain the disciplinary magistrates’ chamber when the CJEU had ordered its suspension. These could exceed one million euros a day.

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