By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Poland breached European Union law when extending the life of its Turow lignite mine without assessing the environmental impact, an adviser to Europe’s top court said on Thursday, siding with a challenge brought by the Czech government.
The adviser’s opinion came as leaders of the two EU neighbours were set to meet amid reports they could sign a deal to resolve the long-running dispute over Poland’s extension of mining at Turow, which produces lignite, or brown coal.
The mine feeds a power plant important to Polish energy supply but the Czech Republic says it is damaging its communities and environment.
In the non-binding opinion on Thursday, Priit Pikamäe, advocate general at the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said Poland had breached EU environmental law by extending the life of the mine until 2026 without conducting an environmental impact assessment.
“A single extension by six years of a mining consent constitutes a project requiring an assessment of its environmental effects,” the court said in a statement.
Pikamäe also said Poland has breached EU law by being late to notify the Czech Republic and the public that the mine extension had been granted – doing so five months after the extension had been confirmed.
EU court opinions are non-binding, but the court typically agrees with them in the ruling that follows in the coming months.
Poland has vowed to keep the disputed coal mine running despite being hit with an order to pay a 500,000 euro ($585,550) daily penalty to the European Commission for defying an earlier ruling to halt operations.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)