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Poland in Court over Environment Impact Assessment of drilling

Environmental Impact Assessment: Commission refers POLAND to the Court of Justice of the EU over inadequate assessment of exploratory mining drillings

The European Commission is referring Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to ensure that the environmental impacts of exploratory mining drillings are properly assessed. Under Polish law, it is possible to drill down to depths of 5 000 metres without assessing the potential impact on the environment beforehand. The high threshold introduced under Polish law does not take into account all relevant criteria and standards established by the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (Directive 2011/92/EU), which should be used when determining whether certain types of projects require an assessment. Under EU law, deep drillings need to be assessed, in particular for the waste they produce, their effects on water and soil, use of natural resources, the risk of accidents, and any cumulative effects they may have with other similar projects or activities. This was recently repeated by the Court of Justice of the EU (in the case C-531/13).

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The aim of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive is to ensure that projects which are likely to have a significant effect on the environment are adequately assessed before they are approved. Hence, before any decision is taken to allow such a project to proceed, its possible impacts on the environment are identified and assessed.

Developers can then adjust projects to minimise negative impacts before they actually occur or the competent authorities can incorporate mitigation measures into the project approval. The Directive ensures public participation in decision-making and, thereby, strengthens the quality of decisions.

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