The Government Legislation Centre has published on its website a draft law amending the Act on Access to Information regarding the Environment and its Protection, Public Participation in Environmental Protection and Environmental Impact Assessments and the Act on the Protection of Nature. The draft envisages the establishment of a new state entity – the Directorate for Environmental Protection (“DEP”).
The new law aims to simplify the organizational structure of the administrative offices subordinate to the General Director for Environmental Protection (“GDEP”) and Regional Directors for Environmental Protection (“RDEPs”) by creating the DEP – an entity specialized in environmental protection and nature protection – which will be subordinate to the GDEP.
The DEP will consist of a head office (supporting the GDEP) and regional offices (supporting the RDEPs). The DEP’s organization and internal rules will be defined by the Minister of the Environment. On the date of the draft law’s entry into force, the Prime Minister will dismiss the current GDEP and the Minister of the Environment will dismiss the current RDEPs. The new GDEP will be appointed by the Prime Minister (as was previously the case), whereas the new RDEPs will be appointed by the Minister of the Environment, following a request from the GDEP (this represents a departure from previous practice).
The draft law envisages a move away from rigidly dividing the competences of RDEPs based solely on their territorial jurisdiction (i.e. according to the geographical division into voivodeships) and towards a division of competences that takes account of various natural conditions (e.g. forms of nature). Currently, each RDEP perform its tasks within the borders of a particular voivodship. This fails to take account of situations where forms of nature (e.g. nature reserves or Natura 2000 sites) are located in multiple voivodships. The draft law would change this by allowing the Minister of the Environment to adopt regulations to determine the territorial scope of an RDEP’s activity, the number and locations of RDEPs, taking into the account the need to properly organise the tasks of RDEPs.
On the entry into force date of the proposed amendments, the newly-appointed RDEPs will take over the files of completed and ongoing administrative cases from the current RDEPs. Any ongoing administrative proceedings will be conducted before the RDEP which becomes competent for the relevant issue after the entry into force of the Act.
The draft law’s justification indicates that the envisaged solution is not a novelty in the Polish legal system. The General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways, which consists of regional branches in voivodships, also operates on a similar basis.
The promoters of the draft law consider that it will contribute to a real increase in the economic efficiency of public bodies for protecting nature and the environment, and that it will reduce their running costs. The changes will also positively impact on the efficiency and speed of action of the DEP and the various RDEPs.
The proposed amendments only affect the organizational rules of the GDEP’s and RDEPs’ support offices. The competences and functions of these bodies, in terms of environmental and nature protection, remain unchanged. Although, the Polish legislature does not anticipate that the proposed amendments will be revolutionary, they may impact on any possible future amendments to decisions already issued.
The law is expected to enter into force on 1st January 2018.