Jänschwalde power plant may continue to operate for the time being

The administrative court in Cottbus has decided, following a complaint by the German Environmental Aid, that the Jänschwalde opencast mine will only receive an operating permit until 14 May this year. The Jänschwalde power plant is the third largest power plant in Germany. The power plant is fired with lignite from the Jänschwalde opencast mine. Now the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg has overturned the ruling following an appeal by Lausitzer Energie Bergbau AG.

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Court sees serious disadvantages in the public interest

The court justifies the ruling by stating that a cessation of opencast mining operations would be associated with serious disadvantages for public interests. In particular, the court mentions the endangered energy supply in connection with the Ukraine war. The Higher Administrative Court considers the consequences complained about by the German Environmental Aid in the drainage measures in the affected area to be comparatively minor.

Jänschwalde power plant may continue to operate for the time being. Higher Administrative Court overturns decision of the Cottbus Administrative Court
Jänschwalde power plant may continue to operate for the time being. Higher Administrative Court overturns decision of the Cottbus Administrative Court
Series of wells for dewatering the Jänschwalde opencast mine
Image: Lutki, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Higher Administrative Court overturns decision of the Cottbus Administrative Court

According to the ruling of the Cottbus Administrative Court, the operator Leag would have been allowed to operate the Jänschwalde opencast mine only until 14 May. Leag has filed an appeal with the OVG. According to Leag, the cessation of opencast mining would have serious consequences for the energy supply in the region. With the current ruling of the Higher Administrative Court, Leag can continue to operate the opencast mine for the time being.

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Environmentalists do not accept court decision

The plaintiffs Deutsche Umwelthilfe and Grüne Liga criticised the decision of the Higher Administrative Court. DUH Federal Executive Director, Sascha Müller-Kraenner, commented on the decision as follows: “The court expressly leaves open the question of whether the opencast mine is currently being operated illegally. This can only be decided in the main proceedings. The region affected by the lowering of the groundwater will be confronted with the consequences of the open-cast mine for a long time to come”.

René Schuster of the Green League notes. “In the case of the Jänschwalde opencast mine, Leag still lacks several permits to implement its ideas. For example, it is still open whether the water extraction, which has so far only been permitted until 2022, can be extended until 2044 as requested by Leag. In all these procedures, we will intensively examine how the damage to the water balance caused by the opencast mining can be effectively minimised”.

Court does not share opinion of environmentalists

However, the Higher Administrative Court does not see it the same way as the environmentalists, because according to the court, the drainage of the opencast mine would have to continue even if operations were stopped to ensure safety. It is not possible to operate the opencast mine without lowering the groundwater.

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Controversy will continue in the coming years

The German Environmental Aid and the Green League do not accept the decision of the Higher Administrative Court. The dispute over the Jänschwalde power plant is thus likely to go into the next round and continue to occupy the courts. Jobs and security of energy supply obviously do not play a role for the two organisations. It’s good that there are still judges who take a more critical view.

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