Maciej Szewczyk

Environmental decisions assignable from 20 July 2010

Transferability of environmental decisions, which was possible under Polish law prior to November 2008, has now been restored. The gap caused major difficulties for investors carrying out projects that could have a significant environmental impact.

An amendment to the Act on Access to Information on the Environment and Environmental Protection, Social Participation in Environmental Protection and Assessments of Environmental Impact went into effect on 20 July 2010. There are numerous changes, but most of them are designed to add more precision to existing provisions of the act or clarify issues that have arisen in practice.

For investors implementing projects that may have a significant environmental impact, the ability to transfer a decision on environmental conditions is extremely important. Transfer was possible prior to November 2008, when amendments to the regulations concerning environmental impact assessments went into effect. For reasons that remain unclear, the Parliament did not include procedures for transferring an environmental decision when it amended the regulations at that time, but this has been restored in the amendment that went into effect on 20 July 2010.

Under the new regulations, an administrative authority is required to transfer an environmental decision to a new holder if the current holder consents and the new holder accepts the conditions set forth in the decision. The new regulations also provide that the parties to an administrative proceeding for transfer of a decision will be the assignor and the assignee of the decision. This should help assure that the proceeding will be quick and effective.

The temporary inability to assign decisions made it difficult to change investors during the course of a project. Often the new investor was required to obtain a new environmental decision, which caused major delays in starting projects. Some commentators took the view that assignment of an environmental decision could be subsumed under the assignment of the building permit for a project, but this was a controversial position.