Warsaw — Local authorities in Poland’s Silesia coal-mining region urged the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government on Monday to drop proposed legislation that would give it the option to open new mines without their consent.
Facing an election on Sunday, PiS has maintained its strong support for coal mining as a key energy source for Poland, which generates 80% of its electricity from coal.
But there is growing opposition to mining in Silesia, one of the most polluted coal regions in Europe, potentially putting pressure on PiS. Opinion polls show the party is likely to win Sunday’s vote with about 40-44%.
PiS has said it will discuss the draft legislation at a session of parliament just after the parliamentary election on Oct. 13, irrespective of the result.
“The Union’s board strongly opposes the introduction of such regulations that strongly violate local self-government and do not take into account the growing importance of the policy of diversifying energy supply sources and environmental protection,” the Silesian Union of Municipalities and Districts said in a statement.
The draft law says the government will have the right to hand pick mining areas it considers strategic and exclude them from the environmental approval process in which local authorities and communities are also allowed to express views.
Jan Chwiedacz, the mayor of Imielin since 1995, said half of the town’s area would be affected by the new mine and that was why most residents opposed it.
“Few citizens work in the coal mine. Also, the ecological awareness is much bigger,” Chwiedacz told Reuters.
Imielin, which used to live on coal but now relies on small private companies and entrepreneurs, is concerned with potential mining damages to infrastructure and air quality, he added.
“If the legislation is passed, citizens and local governments will lose the right to decide about their small homelands and the opportunity to consult and express objection against new coal mines,” said Pawel Szypulski from Greenpeace.
A lawyer at environmental group ClientEarth said the legislation may be unconstitutional and incompatible with EU law.