16 Dec 2020, 15:59
Charlotte Nijhuis

Villagers keep up fight against relocation due to German coal mine as media report tells of government "disinformation"

Die Zeit / Der Spiegel

The fight against a planned resettlement of five villages due to expansion of a lignite mine in West Germany continues, writes newspaper die Zeit. In a state parliament hearing, the environmental association Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) called the resettlement plans unnecessary and irresponsible. The government’s draft plan assumes 600 million tons of lignite will be mined in the Garzweiler mine, after the planned resettlement of the villages by 2028. This plan ignores the likely increase in CO2 taxes due to the EU’s stricter climate targets, and thus the reduced need of coal mining in the future, BUND argues. Utility company RWE, which owns the mine, stressed the necessity of coal mining until 2038 and said agreements had already been reached with around 85 percent of the residents.

On Tuesday, a study from the ministry of economics that served as the basis for the decision on the coal phase-out law was released, after being kept under lock and key since November 2019, reports Der Spiegel. The study, carried out by BET and EY, states that the resettlement of the five villages in Nordrhein-Westfalen could have been averted if all coal-fired power plants were evenly shut down over the years until 2038. The government did not follow this recommendation and instead chose a type of ‘staircase model’, causing a lot of power plants to be down simultaneously. As a result, the demand for fuel is higher than recommended by the report and the lignite mine in West Germany now needs more space. When Oliver Krischer from the Green party inquired about reports about the phase-out law early this year, the study by BET and EY was not mentioned. Krischer accuses the ministry of economics of "deliberate disinformation of Parliament and the public", der Spiegel writes.

The government of Nordrhein-Westfalen gave citizens, local authorities and associations the opportunity to voice their opinions on a draft plan about future lignite mining in the region. The approximately 500 suggestions are now being evaluated by the ministry of economics, die Zeit writes. The state government plans to adopt a final version in spring 2021. Earlier this year, the German Constitutional Court rejected a complaint by villagers fearing resettlement due to the expansion of the Garzweiler mine, on the basis that the plaintiffs should have appealed in lower courts and that the reasoning did not meet the requirements.

Germany’s coal-exit law has set the end date for coal-fired power production in Germany at no later than 2038, while environmental groups argue the goal falls short of climate targets. The Garzweiler mine was granted special treatment in the coal-exit legislation due to its purported necessity for power supply security in the region.  

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