Every Polish entrepreneur engaged in the manufacturing, processing, handling or disposal of hazardous substances is obliged to obtain administrative permits and decisions applicable to the type and scope of its commercial activities, manufacturing plants or industrial installations. Furthermore, every entrepreneur is obliged to comply with the conditions of such permits and decisions, as well as with the provisions of law.

A breach of the conditions of the administrative permits or decisions, or of certain provisions of law may lead to severe sanctions being imposed by the authorities. One of the most severe sanctions, apart from a liability for damages, financial penalties and criminal consequences, can be applied on the basis of the Environmental Protection Act of 27 April 2011 (unified text: Journal of Laws of 2008, no 25, item 150, as amended), by the Voivodeship Inspectorates for Environmental Protection (VIEP, in Polish: "Wojewodzki Inspektorat Ochrony Srodowiska").

The VIEP is obliged, by virtue of law, to periodically audit manufacturing plants or industrial installations depending on the type and scope of their commercial activities and their effect on the environment. Pursuant to the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act, the VIEP is authorised to suspend the use of a manufacturing plant or industrial installation upon, among other things:

  • the release of substances (chemical elements or compounds and their mixtures) into the environment without valid administrative permits or decisions,
  • the release of substances (chemical elements or compounds and their mixtures) into the environment in a manner resulting in a breach of administrative permits or decisions,
  • the running of a manufacturing plant or industrial installation without prior notifications to the authorities, or in a manner contrary to the information included in said notifications,
  • the running of a manufacturing plan or industrial installation without an integrated permit, or
  • the running of a manufacturing plan or industrial installation in a manner resulting in a substantial deterioration of the environment, or endangering life or health.

The decision on the suspension of use can be, depending on the circumstances of a particular case, effective immediately. Upon receipt of the decision on the suspension of use the entrepreneur is obliged to cease, under threat of criminal liability for the decision-making officers or members of the Management Board, all of the manufacturing plant or industrial installation’s activities which are covered by such decision. The decision can be appealed to the Chief Inspector of Environmental Protection and, in the following stages, to the Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. Despite the fact that the suspension is fully reversible, the administrative proceedings and appeals can last for years. In certain cases, having a lower level of significance, the VIEP is allowed to issue decisions limiting the influence that manufacturing plants or industrial installations have on the environment.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act, an entrepreneur may apply to the VIEP, prior to the issuance of a decision on the suspension of use, for the granting of a special deadline for the application of remedies for the breach that has resulted in the suspension of use. There are no provisions defining the length of such period as it must be adjusted both to the breach, and the type of manufacturing plant or industrial installation which is to be suspended. The special deadlines are usually granted as a result of the severe economic consequences which would result because of the suspension of use. The decision on the suspension of use must also include a deadline for the shutdown – a specific date (for example, 1 December). The date of the suspension of use must be established in a manner allowing the process of the suspension of use to be safe for the environment (in many cases it is not possible to shut down a factory without disposal of certain chemicals, wastes, etc).

The suspension of use of a manufacturing plant or industrial installation is deemed to have catastrophic consequences for an entrepreneur if it stops that entrepreneur's enterprise. Both the environmental authorities and administrative courts are aware that the suspension of use of an important plant or installation may stop the commercial activities of the entrepreneur, result in claims from its business partners, and even "kill" the enterprise. On the other hand, the environmental authorities are obliged to perform their duties and take all the necessary steps as required by the Environmental Protection Act. Thus, every entrepreneur operating in Poland should be certain that its manufacturing plants or industrial installations are fully compliant with the provisions of law, administrative decisions and permits.