On 10 July this year, the website of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland published a communication informing about the submission of the Government draft bill amending the bill on the provision of information on the environment and its protection, public participation in environmental protection and environmental impact assessments and some other bills to the Sejm.
Improvement of administrative procedures and shortening of procedures related to the implementation of the investment process, and in particular to obtaining environmental decisions, is the main objective of the amendment.
The draft law provides for the following solutions:
- For projects for which no obligation to carry out an environmental impact assessment has been established, the indicated authority will issue an environmental decision instead of issuing a decision. At the same time, the obligation of the State Sanitary Inspectorate to participate in the environmental impact assessment procedure has been abolished when – in the opinion of voivodeship branches of PIS – it will not be necessary to conduct such assessment. Such a solution will shorten the time of proceedings for issuing environmental decisions for projects that may potentially affect the environment.
- When applying for an extension of the validity period of the environmental decision, it will not be necessary to prove that the project is carried out in stages. A request to that effect may be submitted no earlier than five years after the date on which the decision became final. Currently, as a general rule, the environmental decision is valid for 6 years from the date of its issuance. It may be extended by a further four years provided that it is shown that the project is being carried out in stages and that the conditions laid down in the decision are up to date. In practice, the phrase “in stages” gives rise to problems of interpretation, which is why it has been abandoned.
- As part of procedural facilitations, there will be no need to submit extracts from the land register to the application for the issuance of a decision on environmental conditions. In many situations, it is necessary to obtain many such extracts (from more than one district), which is quite a significant burden for the investor (temporary, because obtaining documents may take several months, and financial). In addition, extracts from the land register obtained at the beginning of the procedure may be outdated at the end of the procedure. Moreover, in proceedings for environmental decisions, fewer documents will have to be stored and archived.
- The concept of the area which will be affected by the project and, consequently, by the nature of the party to the proceedings, has been modified to make these concepts dependent on the geodetic division of the area (borders of record plots), which should not affect the substantive aspects of the impact of the investment.
- Suspension of the proceedings for the issuance of the environmental decision is to take place only at the request of the person planning the execution of the project. The point is that suspension of proceedings is a procedural act that does not affect the substantive examination of the case and the other parties.
- Reduce the burden on the General Directorate for Environmental Protection and Regional Directorates for Environmental Protection in order to accelerate the issuance of environmental decisions for key infrastructure projects (the point is to transfer the competence to issue environmental decisions in proceedings for which the commune is an investor – from RDOŚ to communes).
- In the case of cross-border environmental impact assessment, the obligation for investors to translate the documentation into the languages of all countries where the execution of the project may have an impact on the environment – if it concerns more than two countries – has been abolished. In practice, this means a reduction in expenditure on translating documents, which is necessary to carry out a cross-border environmental impact assessment.