The new Finnish Environmental Protection Act enters into force on 1 September 2014. The adopted reform is substantial and improves the previous Act to meet the requirements set out by EU legislation. The new Act implements the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU, “IED”). Key reforms in the new Act relate to adopting binding BAT (Best Available Technique) Conclusions, compulsory baseline reporting in case of activities with contamination risks, alterations to the legal position of large combustion plants, as well as rules on the protection of nature values applicable on peat production. The reform enhances supervision of environmental protection and also introduces a new supervision fee.
In accordance with the IED, the new Act imposes a duty for environmental permit authorities to apply the best available techniques in accordance with the BAT Conclusions of the BAT reference document (“BREF”). The duty is controlled via emission limit values, which are imposed in the environmental permit. These values are based on the BAT Conclusions issued as decisions of the European Commission, which are binding on the Member States as such.
The second major amendment concerns baseline reports, which are made mandatory for certain installations, should the activities of the installation include utilizing, storing or producing hazardous substances. The baseline report serves to compare the status of the site described in the report with the status of the site upon definite discontinuance of the activities in question in order to ensure that no contamination of soil or groundwater has occurred.
Further, the new act includes aggregation rules for separate combustion plants discharging their air emissions through a common stack. These plants are thus considered as a single combustion plant. The purpose of these rules is to increase the number of combustion plants under the scope of regulations concerning large combustion plants, the total rated thermal input of which is at least 50 MW, as described in the IED.
One of the most controversial reforms in the new Act is the new rule on the protection of nature values that is applicable on peat extraction. According to the rules, the location of peat extraction must not spoil any nationally or regionally important nature values. The new rules aim to protect the diversity of peat bogs. However, the rules do not apply to swamps, the natural state of which has significantly been altered due to ditching, or in case nature values of the area have been taken into consideration in the regional or local land use plan.
Finally, by introducing a more focused supervision system, the reform aims to strengthen the objective to decrease pollution. Supervision by authorities should be directed to activities with most environmental risks and a new supervision fee payable by the operators of installations is introduced to cover for the increased expenses of supervision by authorities.