Discussion on the Polish bill of the so-called coal mining special act

In Poland, the controversial bill of the coal mining special act, which allows the express opening of new coal mines without any citizens’ control, was not subject to public consultation. To discuss the nature and consequence of this bill, ClientEarth lawyers met with lawyers, representatives of public administration and non-governmental organisations.

The seventh seminar on access to justice in environmental matters was held on 14 October 2019. The aim of the meeting was to analyse whether the changes proposed in the draft amendments to the Geological and Mining Law (Sejm’s paper No. 3818), i.e. the so-called coal mining special act, complied with Polish, EU and international law. Discussions focused on the limited guarantees of public participation in decision-making and access to justice of this project.

Speakers (Miłosz Jakubowski from the Frank Bold Foundation, Beata Filipcova, Małgorzata Kwiędacz-Palosz and Janusz Buszkowski from the ClientEarth) presented the changes proposed by the bill of the coal mining special act to the participants, drawing their attention to its inconsistency with the Constitution, EU law (EIA and SEA Directive) and international law (Aarhus Convention). The audience agreed that the bill was preventing local authorities from taking decisions on matters that fall within their competence.

The discussion started with the fact that the bill had not been subject to public consultation, and had excluded members of the public from the legislative work. The participants also pointed that the problem of so-called special acts, which often limit the participation of the public and its rights, may result in their inconsistency with Article 8 of the Aarhus Convention that guarantees the participation of the public in the preparation of executive regulations or generally applicable legally binding normative instruments.

They also focused on the laconic nature of the draft, and in particular the statement that it “is not contrary to the law of the European Union”. This was considered contrary to one of the effects of the Act : to make strategic environmental impact assessment carried out under the procedure for the adoption of the local plan illusory, and thus inconsistent with EU standards.

The seminar was part of the “Access to justice for a greener Europe” project financed by the European Commission under the LIFE Programme. The project aims at better implementation and application of environmental law.

 

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Krzysztof Kowalik