Court rules on stay of enforcement of environmental decision

An environmental decision is not a basis for commencing implementation of a development project, and thus it does not entail a threat of significant harm or irreversible effects that would justify a stay of enforcement.

The regulations governing proceedings before the Polish administrative courts entitle petitioners to seek a stay of enforcement of administrative decisions they are appealing from—generally until the court issues a ruling on the administrative act—if there is a danger of significant loss or irreversible effects if the stay is not granted.

However, before enforcement of an administrative act can be stayed, the act itself must be capable of enforcement, generally understood to mean bringing about a state that is called for by the decision.

By order dated 6 July 2010 (Case No. II OZ 658/10), the Supreme Administrative Court held that a decision on environmental conditions does not provide a basis for commencing work and carrying out a development project, and thus there is no infringement of the petitioners’ rights that would justify a stay of enforcement.

The case taken up by the court concerned a petition to set aside a decision issued by the Inspector General for Environmental Protection concerning environmental conditions for construction of the Warsaw ring road. The court stressed that the basis for commencing work and carrying out the project is the permit to carry out road construction, not the decision on environmental conditions issued earlier.

In consequence, the court held that in the case of an environmental decision, there can be no danger of significant loss or irreversible effects, and thus no grounds for stay of the decision.

The position taken by the Supreme Administrative Court confirms the established view in the judicial precedent that a decision on environmental conditions merely defines the conditions and certain specific requirements that must be met when carrying out the project. It does not provide a basis to commence construction, and thus does not cause a significant loss or negative effects that would be difficult to reverse (see Supreme Administrative Court orders dated 14 May 2009, Case No. II OSK 715/09, and 1 February 2010, Case No. II OZ 35/10).