The amendments to the environmental protection law came into force on 21 July 2013 and aim at bringing the Romanian environmental regulations in line with EU legislation. The amendments mainly relate to the validity period of environmental permits and to the legal requirements applicable in case of revised regulatory documents, but also to the relaxation of the prohibition to perform certain activities in protected natural areas and to the mechanism for the allocation of greenhouse gas emission certificates.

As a reaction to the European Commission’s formal notices regarding the faulty transposition by Romania of the Environment Impact Assessment Directive (Directive 85/337/CEE) and of the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/CEE), the Romanian Parliament has adopted Law no. 226/2013 (“2013 Environmental Protection Law”) to amend Government Emergency Ordinance no. 164/2008 (“Ordinance 164”) which modifies the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 195/2005 on environmental protection (“Ordinance 195”).

  • Decrease of the validity period for environmental permits

The 2013 Environmental Protection Law decreases the validity period of environmental permits (in Romanian “autorizaţie de mediu”) which, as of 21 July 2013, shall generally be granted for 5 years, as opposed to 10 years under Ordinance 164. This amendment is likely to result in additional costs for industry stakeholders having the obligation to hold such permits.

The validity period for integrated environmental permits (in Romanian “autorizaţie integrată de mediu”) remains with 10 years. 

  • Extended legal requirements in case of revised regulatory documents

In cases where the competent environmental authority decides that the environmental endorsement granted in relation to certain plans and programmes (including those co-funded by the European Union) needs to be revised, that authority may also request the redrafting of the environmental report prepared as part of such plans and programmes for assessing their potential environmental impact.

  • Legal regime for the cultivation of genetically modified superior plants in natural protected areas

The current legislation prohibits the cultivation of genetically modified superior plants in protected natural areas of national, EU and international interest (e.g. natural reservations, national parks). However, the 2013 Environmental Protection Law expressly permits the cultivation of such plants in those protected natural areas of EU interest regulated as Natura 2000 sites, subject to authorisation being granted by the Romanian Academy.

The prohibition provided by the former legislation to obtain, cultivate, deposit, process and market living genetically modified organisms in protected natural areas has been removed from Ordinance 195. 

  • Novelty regarding the procedure of issuance of greenhouse gas emission certificates

The 2013 Environmental Protection Law determines the relevant state authorities involved in establishing the mechanisms for the allocation (free of charge) of greenhouse gas emission certificates for the period 2013-2020. More precisely, the legislation as recently amended provides that such mechanisms shall be adopted by Government Decision, upon the proposal of the State Energy Department or of the national public authority for environmental protection. Each of those two bodies has been granted authority with respect to the regulation of a specific allocation mechanism.

The decrease of the validity period of environmental permits as provided in the recent legislation will most likely result in supplementary costs triggered by the renewal of such permits, which will affect companies operating economic activities ranging from the food industry to extractive and manufacturing industries such as glass or oil.