Since the beginning of September, legislation significantly increasing penalties for environmental pollution has been in force. On 1 September 2022, after a relatively short 14-day vacatio legis, the Act Amending Certain Acts to Prevent Environmental Crime of 22 July 2022 (Journal of Laws, item 1726) entered into force.
The new act will help protect nature
The new act has amended the Criminal Code, the Misdemeanours Code, the Act on Liability of Collective Entities for Criminal Offences and the Act on Nature Protection by increasing the penalties for environmental pollution.
The most important changes include tougher penalties for the following offences:
- Causing damage to nature such as destroying plants, animals, natural habitats – the minimum prison sentence has been increased to 3 months and the maximum has increased from 2 to 5 years,
- Polluting the environment (air, water, and land surfaces) to a significant extent – both minimum and maximum prison sentences have increased (the latter: from 5 to 8 years), and the prison term has been extended up to 10 years in the case of damage caused by a system which requires a permit in order to be operated in an industrial plant,
- Inadequate handling of waste (storage, disposal, processing, collection, transport, and recycling) in a manner causing threat to people or the environment – the maximum prison sentence has now been increased from 5 to 10 years and, in the case of cross-border import or export of waste, to 12 years,
- Failure to maintain facilities to protect nature (water, air or land surface) from pollution or contamination – the minimum prison sentence has been increased to 3 months and the maximum increased from 2 to 5 years.
Tougher penalties for offences against the environment if people are also affected
In addition, the penalties for the said offences have been increased where there is significant environmental pollution, serious damage to human health, or fatalities.
- The amounts of fines for collective entities whose management commits an offence against the environment have been set (from PLN 10,000 to PLN 5,000,000), and the liability of a collective entity is no longer conditional on a prior final conviction of a manager,
- The amounts of exemplary damages to be paid to the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management (NFOŚiGW) have been set from PLN 10,000 to PLN 10,000,000. Such damages may (and in some cases must) be ordered by the court in the event of a conviction for an environmental crime.
- Sanctions have also been extended to attempts or instigations to commit certain misdemeanours (littering in public, dumping debris, waste or scrap metal on forest or agricultural land, polluting a forest),
- The penalty for burning vegetation has been significantly raised – the fine is now PLN 30,000,
- The possibility of ordering a restoration obligation has been added,
- Another addition is that a conviction for a crime against the environment has become a basis for excluding a contractor from a procedure for a public works concession contract.
How can you ensure full environmental compliance at your plant and avoid potential heavy fines? Please do not hesitate to contact us on any matters related to environmental law.