Thursday, June 17, 2021
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Dispute Over a Coal Industry Pits Poland Against Its Neighbors

But this will not solve a bigger problem. A sudden retreat from coal, many in Poland fear, will push the country into the position of Germany, which is heavily dependent on imports of natural gas from Russia.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland said this month that the government would not allow the Bogatynia mine to close because “this could put Poland’s energy security at risk.”

Of more immediate concern, however, are the domestic political risks of moving away quickly from coal.

On a visit to Bogatynia before Poland’s election for president last year, the incumbent, Andrzej Duda, said that coal miners provided a “great service” to Poland and that they would not be abandoned. The town’s voters backed him in the election, helping him to victory.

Andrzej Grzegorowski, a trade union leader at the power plant next to the Turow mine, said he voted for Mr. Duda because “he ignited great hopes for the future of coal.” Whether he votes for Mr. Duda’s governing Law and Justice party again, however, will depend on whether it keeps the mine open, he added.

Fearful of antagonizing miners, a shrinking but well-organized and vociferous constituency, Polish politicians have long struggled to balance demands for green energy emanating from Brussels with voters’ demands for jobs.

“Everyone in my family has always been connected to the mine here,” said Bogumił Tyszkiewicz, a union leader at the Turow mine. His two brothers, two brothers-in-law and his sister all have jobs with Polish Energy Group, or PGE, a state-owned company that operates the mine and the adjacent power plant. Only his son, who found work with a green energy company in another town, does not depend on the mine for his livelihood.

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