An overhaul of the Environmental Protection Act is under way. The preparatory work began in the Ministry of the Environment in late 2011. The Government approved the proposal for a new Environmental Protection Act in December 2013, and the bill is currently undergoing a committee reading. The new law is intended to enter into force in late May or early June in 2014.

What Will Change? 

The new law will implement the EU Directive on Industrial Emissions (2010/75/EU) on a national level in addition to streamlining the environmental permit granting process and its supervision. The new law will also introduce provisions that better account for nature values especially vis-à-vis peat production. Furthermore, provisions concerning the knowledge requirement of operators will be clarified with proposals targeting the protection of soil and groundwater in particular.

Emission Limit Values in BAT Conclusions to Become Binding

The key amendment to the Environmental Protection Act brought on by the Industrial Emissions Directive is the clarification of provisions governing the best available techniques (BAT). In principle, the Directive binds the application of the best available techniques to the central findings recorded in BAT reference documents, i.e. the conclusions made on the best available techniques. Following the implementation of the new law, the emission levels set out in such conclusions, i.e. the permissible range of emission limit values, would become binding with some exceptions. These would comprise the geographical location, local environmental conditions and the technical characteristics (such as age) of the relevant installation. According to the proposal, operators could deviate from the upper limit of the emission limit values only in situations where the assessment proves that the costs incurred for applying the best available techniques would outweigh its environmental benefits.

New Supervision Fees 

The key amendment to the provisions governing supervision would be the implementation of new supervision fees, which would, according to the proposal, secure the availability of resources for supervision. Thereby, the periodic monitoring of installations stipulated in the supervision programme and related inspections and periodic reports as well as inspections related to administrative compulsions would become subject to a fee. According to the proposal, authorities could charge a fee that corresponds, at maximum, to the average cost price charged for such measures. Further provisions on the fees will be issued by decree.

Changes in the Protection of Soil and Groundwater – Baseline Report 

The upcoming changes to the protection of soil and groundwater also arise from the Industrial Emissions Directive. According to the proposal, operators would have to prepare a baseline report if the operation of the installation involves the use, production or release of dangerous substances that may pollute soil or groundwater. When the operation of such an installation ceases definitively, the baseline report would be used to assess the condition of the soil or the groundwater and whether any decontamination is required.

Accounting for Nature Values in Peat Production Projects

In derogation from the original proposal, the provision stipulating how nature values must be accounted for is proposed to apply to peat production alone, instead of to all projects. According to the proposal, the location of peat production should be selected so that it does not cause significant detriment to nature value on either a national or local level. In addition to issues of contamination, the proposal would make it possible to account for the effects on nature values caused by the physical transformation of the relevant sites to a significant degree in the assessment of an operator's environmental permit request. For the purposes of avoiding twofold assessment, the proposed provisions would now, however, be applied in situations where nature values have already been assessed to a sufficient degree in connection with the planning process.