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PiS message: “only the mine in Turów disturbs green activists”? It’s a complete lie

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MEP Anna Zalewska shows on Twitter a map of the mine on the border of Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany and argues that “only the one in Turów disturbs green activists!”. This is a copy of PGE’s message. We prove that it is not true.

After examining the complaint filed by environmental organizations, the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw on May 31 he decidedthat in the case of the Turów mine there is a risk of causing significant damage to the environment and suspended the implementation of the environmental decision issued by the General Director for Environmental Protection. On its basis, in February 2023, the government extended the concession for mining lignite in Turów until 2044. About the decision of the Supreme Court they informed On June 6, organizations that filed a complaint with the administrative court in April 2023, including Greenpeace, the Frank Bold Foundation and the Eko-Unia Ecological Association.

The press officer of the WSA, Judge Małgorzata Jarecka, clarified in statementthat the decision is not legally binding and does not suspend the work of the Turów mine, but the justification states that “the possibility cannot be ruled out that the decision issued by the General Director for Environmental Protection is defective”.

A complaint against this court decision, which may in the future, after becoming legally binding, stop mining in the Turów mine, submitted already on June 13, the company PGE Górnictwo i Energetyka Conventional (PGE GiEK), which owns the Turów mine and power plant. Earlier, on June 7, on PGE’s social media accounts published map of lignite mines on the border of Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany, where Turów is located and commented: “But only the one in Turów disturbs green activists! #obronimyTurow”.

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The Czech director replies to Zalewska: “You’re lying!”

This post was shared by many PiS politicians, including Deputy Ministers of Infrastructure Marcin Horała and Grzegorz Witkowski, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ryszard Bartosik, Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment and Government Plenipotentiary for Renewable Energy Sources Ireneusz Zyska, PiS MPs: Jarosław Gonciarz, Robert Gontarz, Anna Kwiecień, Anna Milczanowska and Jan Warzecha, and Szczecin PiS councilor Dariusz Matecki. The message itself she duplicated also on the same day, PiS MEP Anna Zalewska published a map and repeated after PGE: “But only this [kopalnia] in Turów disturbs green activists!”.

However, the entry of the MEP was commented on by the Czech director of nature films Martin Marek, who he wrote: “You’re lying! Environmental activists, including the Czech branch of Greenpeace, have been protesting against the Bilina, Vrsana and CSA mines for decades.”

We show what actions environmentalists have taken towards the mines shown on the map in the Czech Republic and Germany and why the thesis that only the Polish mine “interferes with green activists” is untrue.

Map source: article, among others about the protests in the Czech Republic and Germany

At the bottom of the map published by PGE and Anna Zalewska, its source is placed: it is him comment two analysts of the Center for Eastern Studies from March 2021 entitled “Lignite in the Czech Republic and Germany – controversy and prospects”. From the title itself, you can guess that the text from which the map comes from mentions, among others, about protests against the mines marked on it in the Czech Republic and Germany.

The text states that “lignite still plays an important role in the energy sector of the Czech Republic and Germany, remaining one of the key sources of electricity”, but at the same time it is emphasized:

Both in the Czech Republic and in Germany, the activity of lignite mines and nearby plants burning this raw material is the subject of numerous controversies. The far-reaching interference of this activity in the natural environment raises more and more opposition from local communities, pointing to e.g. to dust, noise, as well as the condition and quality of groundwater. This mobilizes environmental activists who additionally emphasize the problem of the impact of coal exploitation on climate change.

OSW analysts mention in the text e.g. about the controversy surrounding the extension of the site and the extension of mining in the Czech Bilina mine and protests against the felling of trees to expand the borders of the German Hambach mine in North Rhine-Westphalia (this mine is not included on the map now circulating – ed.). However, these were not the only mines whose activities were protested against.

Greenpeace Czech Republic: “a complete lie”

Lukas Hrabek, spokesman for the Czech branch of Greenpeace, whom we asked for a comment on the thesis that only the mine in Turów “interferes with green activists”, wrote in a message to Konkret24 that “this is a complete lie”. “We have been campaigning against coal mining for over 30 years” – he emphasized and explained that in recent years the biggest controversy has been caused by the Bilina and CSA mines visible on the map published by PGE (Ceskoslovenske armady, Czechoslovak Army Mine).

In fact, you can find a lot of information on the web, also in Polishabout the protests over the two mines. They intensified in 2015 after the Czech government considered abolishing the mining limit and expanding their area at the expense of residential buildings. Members of the then-established movement “The limits are us” from various activist groups, not only from the Czech Republic, protested e.g. in the mine area, in front of the house of one of the mine owners and finally during the government meeting in September 2015, where decisions were made on the future of these mining plants. The government partially acceded to the demands of environmentalists, because it did not increase the limits for the CSA mine, but it did for the Bilina mine. Thus, the CSA mine will most likely stop mining in 2024, but the protests over Bilina continue.

An important part of them was the Klimakemp event organized in 2017 in the north of the Czech Republic, during which activists protested against increasing extraction in Bilina and expanding the mine area. “Coal companies, both state-owned and private, threaten people’s homes, ruin the climate and people’s health, and ravage the beautiful landscapes of northern Bohemia” – they wrote the organizers of the event. The spokesman for Greenpeace Czech Republic in a message to Konkret24 adds that since then similar climate camps have been held near Bilina several times, and during them the protesters even entered the mine and stopped its operation.

Currently, with regard to the Bilina mine, activists they demand cancellation of the concession for coal mining until 2035 issued by the District Mining Office in the city of Most. Earlier in 2019 Greenpeace took part in in consultations prior to issuing the environmental assessment of the Bilina mine. Activists measured the noise level in the mine to prove that it exceeds the permissible limits. They helped send nearly 5,000 negative opinions on the assessment, which, however, did not affect the final verdict of the ministry. How he wrote then Greenpeace Czech Republic, “never before have so many people participated in giving opinions on the environmental decision regarding the extraction of raw materials.”

The “green activists were also disturbed” by the third Czech mine visible on the now distributed map: Vrsany. In September 2020, activists of Greenpeace Czech Republic they climbed there on mining equipment with banners with slogans calling for a faster phase-out of coal: “End of the coal age” and “Climate change starts here”.

Protests against mines in Germany

“Greenpeace has been working with many other environmental organizations for years to phase out coal from Lusatia and central Germany,” Karsten Smid from German Greenpeace wrote in an e-mail to Konkret24. Smid referred us to numerous reports of protests organized near the border with Poland and the Czech Republic, described on the organization’s website. We found there photos of protests against coal mining in Jänschwalde, Welzow-Süd and Profen mines marked on the map published by PGE.

Greenpeace has been pushing for an early coal phase-out in Germany for years and has been involved in the work of the so-called coal committee. It is about the Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment established by the German government. On January 26, 2019, it adopted a report assuming the abandonment of coal combustion by 2038 at the latest. As reported in January 2019 Center for Eastern Studies, the report also assumed the shutdown of coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 12.5 GW by 2022. The report provides for EUR 40 billion in subsidies for the federal states where the liquidated plants are located. The money is to be used, among others, for early retirement for employees of the lignite sector.

Lukas Hrabek from the Czech branch of Greenpeace pointed out that activists from Germany, the Czech Republic and Sweden had been campaigning for several years against the sale of German coal assets to Vattenfall – the Swedish state-owned energy company. The mines wanted to be taken over by the Czech energy company ČEZ and other Czech companies EPH and Seven Energy. Among others, the mines that were put up for sale were on the map now distributed in social media – Jänschwalde, Nochten, Reichwalde, Welzow-Süd.

Greenpeace itself even expressed its willingness to buy German mines and power plants with a clear plan to close them. “We were turned down by Vattenfall so ultimately we couldn’t do it. So that’s the main reason why these mines are still operating even now,” says Lukas Hrabek. The activist adds that the German branch of Greenpeace protested so actively against the expansion of the mines that Vattenfall went to court to order Greenpeace to stop infringing on its property. EPH.

Interestingly, in October 2021, the then Minister of Climate and Environment, Michał Kurtyka ordered institutions subordinated to the Ministry to verify information on the negative environmental impact of the Jänschwalde mine on the Polish border communes. The telegram of the Polish Press Agency quoted the voices of local government officials. “We can show the European Union that the issue of the conflict around Turów is not a one-sided problem,” said Zbigniew Barski, the mayor of the Gubin commune. The Czech branch of Greenpeace ironically “thanked” the Polish government for joining its campaign against the Jänschwalde mine.

Author:Michał Istel, collaboration: Krzysztof Jabłonowski

Main photo source: PAP

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