The open-cast lignite mine and the associated Turow power plant in the Polish-Czech-Saxon border area have divided opinions – and not just since the European Court of Justice (ECJ) imposed a daily fine of 500,000 euros on Poland for continued operation. The government in Warsaw is “outraged”. The Czech Republic even demanded five million euros per day as a fine for sinking and contaminating the groundwater.
The ECJ ruling makes the already complicated situation in the EU even more difficult. So far there has been a partially open confrontation between the Eastern European (Visegrad) states and Western European EU members, but now a conflict is being carried deep into the Visegrad four – Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. So the Luxembourg judges did not exercise any kind of political sparing.
But is your judgment correct? Coal is now frowned upon. Even more environmentally harmful brown coal – and an open pit mine that not only digs up the water, but also pollutes the air, anyway. The EU therefore rightly wants to get out of coal production and power generation.
The environmental damage in Turow and the lack of advice from the Polish government to those affected about the environmental pollution prior to the extension of the production license for another 20 years make the judgment appear correct. But not only that up to five percent of Poland’s electricity supply depends on the opencast mine and power station in Turow should make you think. Because that’s not easy to replace. Replacing the Polish energy source with imports of coal from Russia or the Russian-occupied Ukrainian coal pot Donbass would be fatal.
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The EU is too dependent on Russian gas and oil, it must not also be dependent on coal from the Kuzbass. For reasons of energy sovereignty – but also because of the environmental disaster in Siberia’s coal basin. In order to make itself more independent from Russia, Poland is relying on significantly more expensive Qatari liquefied petroleum gas and wants to build a nuclear power plant. Warsaw cannot be accused of being only verbally harsh when it comes to Russia’s policy. Poland pays a high price for this out of political conviction.
Now there has to be a sensible compromise in the Turow dispute. We have to invest more funding in the energy transition on the Oder and Vistula rivers. Until then, coal mining in Turow and Silesia must be as environmentally friendly as possible.
More: Coal business worth billions: Why RWE is even making money from rising CO2 prices.