Environmental law is becoming increasingly important for companies in Poland. Its significance is recognised in the Polish Constitution, which provides that one of the fundamental goals of the Republic of Poland is to assure protection of the environment through sustainable growth.
Environmental law is interdisciplinary by nature, combining regulatory and liability regimes typical of administrative, civil and criminal law. The regulations in force in Poland often derive from implementation of analogous European Union regulations or other sources of international law. It is evident from the legislative process that issues relating to liability for harm to the environment and for violation of environmental regulations will continue to grow in importance.
The principal regulations of environmental law are set forth in the Environmental Protection Law of 27 April 2001. Many environmental regulations are targeted to specific sectors, however, or address specific aspects of environmental protection, such as waste management, air, water and noise pollution, and so on. Some of these regulations are included in the Environmental Protection Law, but others are found in the Water Law of 18 July 2001, the Waste Act of 14 December 2012, and the Nature Conservation Act of 16 April 2004. These are just examples of some of the specific regulations; in the area of waste, for example, there are also legal acts devoted to particular types of waste, such as packaging waste, mining waste, used electronic equipment, vehicles taken out of service, used batteries, and so on.
Environmental regulations applicable to the real estate development process are particularly important to investors planning environmentally sensitive projects. These provisions are chiefly covered by the Act on Access to Information on the Environment and Environmental Protection, Social Participation in Environmental Protection and Assessments of Environmental Impact of 3 October 2008.
Environmental protection regulations are also found in the Construction Law, the Planning and Zoning Act, the Forestry Act, the Geology and Mining Law, the Nuclear Law, the Maritime Code, and elsewhere.
Environmental protection tasks within the state system are carried out by central and territorial administrative agencies. In the latter case, authority is vested in the heads of local communes, mayors of towns and cities, county executives and province marshals. At the central governmental level, administrative authority is exercised primarily by the General Directorate for Environmental Protection and regional directors, as well as the Minister of the Environment and the Inspectorate for Environmental Protection.
Jurisdiction in cases related to civil and criminal liability for offences against the environment is vested in the common courts. A major role is nonetheless played by the administrative courts, which review actions by the public administration and rule on appeals from decisions concerning environmental protection issued by public administrative agencies.