Phase I of the overhaul of Finnish environmental legislation was completed when the new Environmental Protection Act entered into force on 1 September 2014. The Act will be supplemented by a new Environmental Protection Decree, which is planned to enter into force on 10 September 2014.

New Act and Decree – Instruments to Implement the Industrial Emissions Directive

The act was used to implement the EU Directive on Industrial Emissions (2010/75/EU) on a national level. The most significant amendment to the old act is related to the emission levels set in the BAT conclusions. Going forward, the emission limit values included in environmental permit conditions may generally not exceed the emission levels set in the BAT conclusions. The overhauled act also includes a new supervision fee for periodic monitoring of installations stipulated in the supervision programme. In addition, operators will now be required 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 ground water. When the operation of an installation ceases, the baseline report must be used to assess the condition of the soil or ground water and whether any decontamination is required.

The new Environmental Protection Decree is mainly based on its predecessor, but also has a role in the implementation of the Industrial Emissions Directive. After the entry into force of the decree, the governmental permit and supervisory authorities shall be required to comply with special regulations relating to permit proceedings and supervision of directive installations. These regulations include the time limits applicable to permit update proceedings as well as partly tightened requirements for reporting the basis for using the applied BAT. Supervision must be based on prepared plans.

Future of the Overhaul

The overhaul of Finnish environmental legislation will continue. The overall aim is to lighten the environmental permit procedure and ease the backlog of permit applications. In phase II, the need to amend other environmental statutes will be assessed, and the necessary amendment propositions shall be made accordingly. A government bill regarding the combination of environmental permit and excavation permit procedures will be given during fall 2014.