The decision allowing a prolongation of the concession for Turów mine, issued by the Polish Climate Ministry, does not mean the end of the fight for the protection of the people from Czech-Polish-German border area. June may bring important voices to this debate. The Czech Government should make the decision about filing a lawsuit against Poland, and the European Commission will decide the next steps to handle the improper implementation of the WFD. Simultaneously, European Environment Bureau, Foundation “RT-ON” and Frank Bold Society will hold a webinar on enforcing EU laws on water and protecting society against the effects of coal mining.
On 17 March 2020 a parliamentary breakfast “Water and coal mining: Co-benefits of EU coal mining phase-out and water quality in the EU” by Foundation “RT-ON” was planned, but the Covid-19 changed our plans. Two MEPs agreed to co-host the event: Bas Eickhout and Martin Hojsik. Our fight still continues as we feel even stronger the results of an ongoing drought.
Coal mining, in particular the exploitation of lignite and open-pit mines, has a dramatic impact on water resources. Due to the need to desiccate the mine, at the area around the mining site one can observe decreasing levels of underground waters. It has a huge impact on local communities.
As evidenced by Turów lignite mine expansion case proper implementation of Water Framework Directive has a huge significance for Europe as a whole. It is increasingly harder to access safe drinking water and one of the reasons of these problems is coal and climate crisis made more acute by burning fossil fuels. At the border of Poland, Czechia and Germany, the Turów mining site desiccates water resources of other countries and underground waters of the whole region, and at the same time violates EU law.
Although the parliamentary breakfast had to be cancelled, we were still able to organize the aforementioned webinar on Friday 12 June starting at 15:00CET. We will to explore the impacts of coal mining on water and how implementation of the WFD may help Europe to abandon coal.
Among our guests we will have: MEP Anna Cavazzini, MEP Tomáš Zdechovský, Polish MP Anita Sowińska, a representative from the European Commission (TBC), and local and regional authorities representing the communities impacted by the Turów mine.
Link for registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/thirsty-for-justiceenforcing-eu-water-laws-to-defend-communities-from-coal-tickets-105221436148">https://www.eventbrite.com/e/thirsty-for-justiceenforcing-eu-water-laws-to-defend-communities-from-coal-tickets-105221436148
On 29 April two commissions of the Czech parliament adopted a resolution concerning Turów mine expansion. It obliges the Czech Foreign Ministry to prepare a legal analysis on a possibility to sue Poland. It should be ready by June 30th.
The Czech Minister of the Environment Richard Brabec commented: “we will decide by the end of June about next steps, but we will do everything we can to protect our citizens”.
In June 2019 Foundation “RT-ON” with the legal assistance of Frank Bold Foundation filed a complaint to the European Commission on improper implementation of the Water Framework Directive by Poland.
We pointed out errors concerning issuing derogations from the WFD goals. Such derogations were issued in many cases for new coal mining sites. The justification given was that they are required for sustainable development. It shows total lack of concern of Polish government towards negative impact of coal mining sites on the water resources.
The EC has up to a year to consider next steps after a complaint concerning violation of the EU laws is filed. Decisions are published once a month. The EC may take legal actions against states that violate the EU law.
On May 14th the May infringement package was published (including the environment infringements by Poland). However, the subject of our complaint hasn’t been listed among the infringement procedures starting. That is why the EC will decide by the end of June about any legal steps against Poland. The EC may request for information (a "Letter of Formal Notice") to the Member State and a state has a certain time window to provide evidence that the EU law is implemented correctly.
If the Commission is not satisfied with the information and concludes that the Member State in question is failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law, the Commission may then send a formal request to comply with EU law (a "Reasoned Opinion"). If Poland fails to ensure compliance with EU law, the Commission may then decide to refer the Member State to the Court of Justice.