Energy 12 June, 2023 7:30 am   

Jakóbik: The tortured Turów is back

Turów lignite mine Turów lignite mine. Photo: Bartłomiej Sawicki

A recent court ruling has revived the dispute over the Turów mine at the beginning of the election campaign in Poland. The sentence is purely procedural, but the parties are deploying arguments on energy security and the envrionment – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief at

Deputy Anna Zalewska from Law and Justice provoked a lively reaction from the public when she published the decision of the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw of 31 May 2023 on the suit by environmental organizations to suspend a contested decision. The complaints were submitted by three organizations from Poland (Frank Bold Foundation, Greenpeace Polska and the EKO-Unia Association) and four from Germany and the Czech Republic (Greenpeace Czech Republic, Die Grosse Kreisstadt Zittau, Horst Schiermayer, Greenpeace Hamburg) who argued against the decision of the Director General of Environmental Protection of September 20, 2022 allowing the extraction of lignite in the Turów mine.

The court’s decision resembles the safeguard applied by the Court of Justice of the European Union in the dispute between Poland and the Czech Republic over Turów, which has already been concluded. The court ruled in May 2021 that Poland should stop mining as part of the safeguard proceedings. Finally, in February 2022, the Czechs withdrew their complaint against Poland, after the presidential elections and the change of administration in Prague to one that is more favorable o Warsaw. It was also shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which changed the European Union’s view of coal mining. At its peak, lignite from Turów accounted for up to 7 percent of energy consumption in Poland. Germany is increasing its coal consumption instead of reducing it, because it no longer wants to rely on gas from Russia, and has shut down the last three nuclear power plants.

However, environmentalists have reservations about the sole procedure for issuing the environmental decision authorizing mining. The permit was issued without an environmental report, quickly, so that the concession would not be lost. They contest the mode in which the decision was issued, not extraction itself. “A complaint against the environmental decision was filed in autumn 2022 by, among others, Frank Bold Foundation, Greenpeace and EKO-UNIA. Despite the fact that there are reasons to believe the decision was unlawful and the possibility that due to this it will be overruled, already in February 2023 the Minister of Climate Anna Moskwa extended on its basis the lignite extraction license for Turów,” Greenpeace Polska argued. “The ruling is not final. The Ministry of Environment and Climate and PGE can file a complaint to the Supreme Administrative Court,” the organization added.

PGE intends to take advantage of these opportunities. “The operation of the Turów mine until 2044 is crucial from the point of view of Poland’s energy security. We will use all legal remedies available to us in the complaint proceedings before the Supreme Administrative Court. We will not allow Turów to be closed,” said Wojciech Dąbrowski, president of the management board of PGE. “Neither Polish nor European courts have the authority to close a legally operating company,” added Wojciech Dąbrowski when commenting on the court’s decision. determined that, according to PGE, the court did not refer to the company’s position on the applications for the suspension of environmental decisions, did not assess the merits of the ecologists’ applications, and did not serve the procedural documents. The Group is to argue that the court cannot challenge environmental decisions as interfering with the environment because every investment interferes with it, and the court is not authorized to block them. This is why the energy company believes this is analogous to the issue with the EU Tribunal.

Politicians of the ruling party add fuel to the fire by linking the Turów case with the rule of law issue between the government and the European Commission on the judicial reform, which the EU alleges is incompatible with this principle. “The decision of the Supreme Court is a curious attempt to install a <judgeocracy> in Poland. Their mouths are full of phrases about defending the Constitution, but in fact they are turning the judiciary into a private clan. The law of grace is the exclusive prerogative of the President. Those who do not understand this do not understand democracy, ” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Twitter.

Politicians have new fuel for the election campaign. The dispute between the energy company and environmentalists will merge into a clash between supporters and opponents of judicial reform, the government and the opposition. Polarization according to the rules of political science will serve the largest factions, with the ruling Law and Justice in the lead. Meanwhile, the dispute over the procedure for granting permission for further coal mining in Turów will continue, and it will be resolved by a legally operating court after it hears the arguments of both parties.