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Germany’s largest coal state, North Rhine-Westphalia, says it cannot accept the federal government’s proposed coal exit law without major amendments, arguing that the law treats hard coal power plants unfairly compared with lignite (brown coal) plants, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports. Regional economy minister Andreas Pinkwart said the current proposal amounts to “clear unequal treatment” and added that amendments were “absolutely necessary”, the FAZ writes.The coal exit law differentiates between lignite and hard coal in part because a lignite phase-out will have a greater effect on mining regions and workers than the hard coal phase-out (Germany’s last hard coal mine closed in 2018). The federal government has negotiated compensation with lignite plant operators, while planning a series of auctions to take hard coal capacity off the grid. In a letter to German economy minister Peter Altmaier, four states (North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Lower Saxony and Saarland) wrote that they could not accept the law as currently written: “The intended procedure for the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants cannot be accepted.” the states wrote.

Hard coal plant operators also object to the law, arguing that the proposed compensation is insufficient. Sven Becker, the spokesman for Aachen-based Trianel, a consortium of municipal utilities, said that under the current legislation, it could lose 800 million euros on a single plant in Lünen-Stummhafen alone. “If Lünen is shut down in the way the phase-out law provides for, it will be tantamount to cold expropriation,” Becker told the FAZ.

Germany has committed to phasing out all coal power by 2038. The German cabinet adopted the coal exit law in January. The legislation must still be approved by the German parliament and the Bundesrat, which represents the German states.