Cottbus, 10.02.2022. The environmental network GRÜNE LIGA has already issued numerous expert statements on how to deal with the water balance in Lusatia, which has been significantly disturbed by lignite mining. Under the title "Coal.Water.Money.", the most important contexts and demands have now been clearly summarised and published.
Opencast lignite mines are among the most serious interventions in the water balance and have shaped Lusatia for many decades. Problems caused in the process were often left to later generations to solve. This is becoming increasingly difficult with the decision to phase out coal: now all the cards must be on the table. What are the real follow-up costs of the opencast mines? Who is responsible as the polluter and to what extent? Above all, there are only a few years left to find out what damage can still be avoided or reduced.
The paper clearly contradicts claims that an early coal phase-out would aggravate the water problem: "The fact is: between the decommissioning of the opencast mines and the end of the groundwater rise, there will be a bottleneck in the flow in the Spree - and this is completely independent of whether coal use ends in 2038 or earlier. The cause of the water shortage is the opencast mining itself, which has removed the groundwater supply in the river's catchment area," says René Schuster, author of the paper.
The booklet incorporates findings from participation procedures and file inspections, some of which also brought disappointing experiences:
"We had to identify major deficits in the transparency of decision-making processes. In water management, the lignite companies LMBV and LEAG have very exclusive access to the decision-making bodies. The vast majority of other water users and affected parties have to fight for every piece of information." René Schuster summarises one of the points of criticism.
This also creates the danger that not all solution options will be examined on an equal footing. For example, a strategic background paper commissioned by the state of Brandenburg specifically lists measures to be borne by taxpayers' money, but does not want to commit to anything in terms of measures to be financed by LEAG.
"The consequences of opencast mining must be borne by the polluter. Before calling for further billions in taxes, additional requirements must also be examined for LEAG, which is currently earning good money again from coal production." Schuster demands.
As the federal contact point, the Cottbus environmental group is in charge of the lignite issue in the Grüne Liga network. The project "Monitoring the Lignite Phase-out in Lusatia with Special Attention to the Water Balance" is funded until March 2022 by the Federal Environment Agency and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. The funding is provided by resolution of the German Bundestag. The responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the authors.