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03 Aug 2020, 13:23
Benjamin Wehrmann

Villagers plan constitutional complaint to save homes from German coal industry

dpa / Rheinische Post / Clean Energy Wire

A group of villagers living in towns threatened by coal mine expansion in western Germany plan to file a constitutional complaint to prevent the expropriation of a property being eyed by energy company RWE, news agency dpa reports in an article carried by the newspaper Rheinische Post. The villagers' alliance, Menschenrecht vor Bergrecht ("Human Rights before Mining Rights"), plans to sue against Germany's coal exit law, arguing that it violates the residents' basic rights including property rights. According to the article, RWE plans to submit a request for expropriation of the 500 square metres of land on the outskirts of the town of Keyenberg, arguing that "settling the affair amicably does not seem to be possible at the moment." The company claims that the coal exit law stipulates the preservation of the Hambach Forest, an ancient woodland near a large lignite mine that became a battleground for environmental groups in recent years, but also recognises the necessity to continue mining in the region in order to guarantee energy supply security.
The villagers' alliance rejected the assessment that further coal mine expansion is needed for a secure supply as false, citing a report by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) from May 2020. The report had found that exploiting coal reserves in the way determined in the region's last land-use plan from 2016 would "not be necessary neither from an economic nor an energy policy point of view."

The coal exit law that was introduced at the beginning of July after nearly two years of preparation set the end date for coal-fired power production in Germany at no later than 2038, but has failed to garner widespread support among environmental groups. It has drawn heavy criticism for falling short of climate targets and granting coal companies too much compensation. Villagers living near existing coal mines have argued that they were used as pawns in a policy tit-for-tat that sacrificed their homes to garner acceptance for a phase-out deal by the coal industry.

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