On September 19 2011 the lower house of the Polish Parliament (the Sejm) adopted an amendment to the Act on Stocks of Crude Oil, Petroleum Products and Natural Gas. The amendment ratified by the Sejm includes a revision proposed by the Senate, according to which only companies that are engaged in importing gas for the purpose of its sale to customers in Poland will be required to maintain compulsory gas stocks.

The amendment also provides for the possibility of maintaining such compulsory stocks in storage facilities located outside Poland (in the European Union and European Free Trade Association countries). This option will be available where the supplier guarantees that the stocks will be supplied to the Polish transmission system within 40 days - that is, the time limit for the supply of gas stocks stored in Poland.

In accordance with the new regulations, the transmission system operator must assess the technical capabilities of the storage facilities in terms of the possibility of supplying gas within 40 days. The transmission system operator must notify the president of the Energy Regulatory Office if it determines that the system cannot guarantee the supply of gas within the required time. The president may verify this by contacting relevant EU institutions and request that the companies concerned furnish relevant documents and information.

Furthermore, the amendment increases the annual limit for gas import, entitling the importer to seek exemption from the requirement to maintain stocks of natural gas from 50 million to 100 million cubic metres. The requirement to maintain such stocks will apply only to companies that import gas for resale to customers in Poland.

The amendment sets out detailed provisions relating to the limitation period for imposing fines. It will be possible to suspend the limitation period when imposing penalties; the existing regulations do not provide for such possibility and allow dishonest entrepreneurs to prolong administrative proceedings by using available appeal procedures until the limitation period expires. The new regulations will not make it possible to avoid penalties, even where administrative and judicial proceedings are deliberately prolonged.

The amendment must now be signed by the Polish President and published. The exact date of its entry into force is not yet known; however, the new regulations are expected to come into force before the end of 2011.

For further information on this topic please contact Rafal Hajduk or Hubert Moryson-Kowalski at Norton Rose Piotr Strawa and Partners LP by telephone (+48 22 581 4900), fax (+48 22 581 4950) or email (rafal.hajduk@nortonrose.com or hubert.moryson-kowalski@nortonrose.com).