February 14, 2013 / 1:51 PM / 7 years ago

Polish green campaigners in court win over coal plant

* Environmentalists challenged planned coal-fired power
    * 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)
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