Polish green campaigners in court win over coal plant
* Environmentalists challenged planned coal-fired power station * Court over-rules construction permit * Investor says project will still go ahead By Agnieszka Barteczko WARSAW, Feb 14 (Reuters) - A Polish court on Thursday over-turned a construction permit for a huge coal-fired power plant near the Baltic Sea after a legal challenge from environmental groups, but the firm behind the project said it would go ahead. The Polnoc power plant is the second major energy project in Poland to be held up by legal challenges on environmental grounds, a new trend for Poland where energy investments are traditionally allowed with little debate. "The court overturned the (regional) governor's decision regarding the construction permit," a court official said. Kulczyk Investments, controlled by Poland's wealthiest man Jan Kulczyk, plans to invest some 12 billion zlotys ($3.9 billion) in the project, making it the biggest private investment in the Polish energy sector. A Kulczyk Investment's spokeswoman said the judgment was a technicality in the planning process. "We are not changing our plans regarding the investment. The decision on the construction permit was overruled only on procedural grounds," Marta Wysocka said. Asked if the company would appeal, she said: "We are waiting for the written justification (from the court)." The proposed site for the plant is in an agricultural area about 60 km (37 miles) south of the Baltic port of Gdansk. The plan is to build two 1,000 megawatt coal-fired blocks, with completion scheduled for 2016 or 2017. Some local residents and landowners, backed by environmental campaigners, argued in court that the regional government, in awarding a construction permit, had not followed public consultation procedures. Commenting on the court decision, local environmental campaigner Olga Sypula said, "It will delay the investment." One of the non-governmental organisations which brought the legal challenge, ClientEarth, has British rock group Coldplay among its patrons. ClientEarth also played a role in a legal challenge which has held up another big energy project, a plan by Polish utility PGE to build an 11.6 billion zloty coal-fired power station at Opole, in southern Poland. The growing assertiveness of green groups in Poland, and particular their use of the courts to stop projects, may effect other energy initiatives, including shale gas exploration. The legal obstacles facing some energy investors have coincided with lower energy prices which has made it harder to finance new power plants. In March, Kulczyk Investments said it had short-listed seven bidders for the project, with major Polish builders Polimex , Mostostal Warszawa and PBG saying they placed bids. Polimex said on Thursday it had withdrawn from the process, without detailing why. ($1 = 3.0907 Polish zlotys) (Editing by Christian Lowe)
- Putin dissolves state news agency, tightens grip on Russia media
- North Korea says Kim's powerful uncle dismissed for 'criminal acts'
- Thai PM calls snap election, protesters want power now |
- Record cold, ice grip U.S.; more snow to blanket East
- Protesters fell Lenin statue, tell Ukraine's president 'you're next'