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Environmental decision: seriously and easily explained

    

One of the first administrative decisions obtained in the investment process are environmental decisions[1]. While not required for every project, they are imperative for those that may potentially cause significant interference with the environment. This is because the essence of environmental decisions lies in upholding the principle of prevention in environmental protection[2].


This principle prescribes taking preventive measures if an ongoing project adversely impacts the environment, meaning not only flora and fauna, but also interfering with hydrographic conditions, the landscape and, above all, human health and human life. Hence, investors are responsible for planning such ventures conscientiously. With this post, I begin a series of several short articles that will explain the environmental decision-making in accessible language.

 

While most of us can instinctively sense which projects carry significant environmental ramifications, the devil is always in the details. The Council of Ministers’ Regulation defines a specific catalog of investments that may significantly affect the environment[3]. These are divided into two categories: those that will inevitably affect the environment para. 2 of the Regulation) and those that may potentially affect the environment (para. 3 of the Regulation).


Among the former, the following can be identified:

  • wind power plants (with a total nominal capacity of not less than 100 MW);

  • overhead power lines with rated voltage of at least 220 kV and a length of at least 15 km;

  • end-of-life vehicle dismantling stations;

  • scrap shredders;

  • cow farms of not less than 210 cows (and other animals depending on the number);

  • paper manufacturing facilities with a production capacity of not less than 200 t/day;

  • highways and expressways.

 

If an ongoing investment qualifies under para. 2 of the Regulation, the procedure for obtaining an environmental decision will require the investor to prepare an environmental report. The report is a highly specialized technical document and its preparation. / is often time-consuming and financially demanding.[4]

 

Projects that may potentially affect the environment (listed under para. 3 of the Regulation) include:

  • hydropower plants;

  • ·installations using wind power for electricity generation (with a height of at least 30m);

  • overhead power lines with rated voltage of not less than 110kV;

  • glass manufacturing facilities;

  • tanning or leather refining facilities;

  • industrial or warehouse development, with accompanying infrastructure, with a development area of not less than 1 hectare (or even 0.5 hectares, if it is to be conducted in conservation areas);

  • construction of photovoltaic farms on areas of at least 2 hectares (or even 0.5 hectares if it is to be carried out in conservation areas);

  • residential development, on an area of at least 4 hectares if it is included in the local development plan and is not planned in a conservation area (because then it would be sufficient for it to occupy 2 hectares);

  • shopping centers with accompanying infrastructure, on areas exceeding 2 hectares;

  • amusement parks;

  • hospitals, cinemas (as long as they exceed a certain size);

  • hard-surfaced roads with a total project length of more than 1 km.

 

These types of undertakings, depending on the assessment of the authority conducting the proceedings, may also require an environmental report. However, in many cases it is acceptable to submit only a simplified information sheet in the procedure.

 



Construction Crane
Installation impacting Environment

Importantly, owners of property in the vicinity of such investments must be notified of the proceedings if their property lies in the impact zone. They will then have the opportunity to review the files of the proceedings and the remedial measures proposed by the investor to mitigate the impact on the environment. If these measures are found to be inadequate, it is vital to voice concerns in the proceedings to prompt necessary adjustments to the investment.


In the following articles I will present further issues pertaining to the environmental decisions and their significance for the implementation of the principle of environmental prevention.

 


[1] Act of October 3, 2008 on providing information on the environment and its protection, public participation in environmental protection and environmental impact assessments ("UOIŚ").

[2] Article 6(1) of the Act of April 27, 2001 – the Environmental Protection Law ("POŚ").

[3] Regulation of the Council of Ministers of September 10, 2019 on projects that may significantly affect the environment.

[4] A separate post will be devoted to the specifics of environmental reports.

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