Environmental Permits Maintain Validity Now Only if Endorsed Yearly
A recent piece of legislation which came into force on 15th of November, 2018 is likely to severely impact the holders of environmental permits / environmental integrated authorizations. Henceforth, environmental permits / environmental integrated authorizations maintain validity until their expiry date, only if endorsed yearly by the competent environmental authorities.
Thus, as per Order no. 1171 issued by the Ministry of Environment regarding the approval of the environmental permits and the environmental integrated authorizations, published in the Official Gazette and enacted as of 15 November 2018 (“Endorsement Act”), holders of environmental permits and environmental integrated authorizations will have to annually request the endorsement of these permits in order to maintain the validity thereof. Prior to the enactment of the Endorsement Act, the environmental permit was valid for a period of 5 years and the integrated environmental authorization for a period of 10 years.
The National Environment Protection Agency (“NEPA”) is the competent authority to issue the yearly endorsements but may delegate its powers to the regional Environmental Protection Agencies (“EPA”).
As of 15 November 2018, in order to maintain the validity of the environmental permits and environmental integrated authorizations for the period these have been issued for, holders of such environmental permits will have to annually request the NEPA/EPA for endorsement thereof (“Endorsement”).
When applying for the Endorsement, the following documents have to be provided to the NEPA/EPA:
(I) an application for the approval of the Endorsement;
(II) the environmental report;
(III) an affidavit that the activity is carried out under the same conditions for which the environmental permit or the integrated environmental authorization was originally issued and that no changes have occurred with respect to the conditions established therein.
The request for the issuance of the Endorsement shall be filed with the NEPA/EPA yearly, the latest 60 days prior to the anniversary of the grant of the original environmental permit/environmental integrated authorization.
Within 10 days of receipt of the request for the Endorsement, NEPA/EPA shall set a date for the site inspection. The reason for such site visit is to verify and confirm the compliance of the site with the authorized conditions contained in the environmental permit/environmental integrated authorization. Among other parameters, the NEPA/EPA shall also check status of the completion of prior imposed measures (i.e. obligations imposed within the issued permits or conformity programs).
Should such correlation between the authorized conditions contained in the environmental permit/environmental integrated authorization be confirmed, the EPA shall issue the Endorsement, thus maintaining the validity of the environmental permit / environmental integrated permit.
However, should such correlation not be confirmed, the NEPA/EPA shall grant the activity owner a 30 days remedy term. If remediation has not been achieved during this period of time, the NEPA/EPA shall refuse the issuance of the Endorsement, which results in the environmental permit/environmental integrated authorization losing its validity by default.
The decision of the NEPA/EPA to refuse issuance of the Endorsement may be contested within an administrative court.
Due to the procedure being so new there is no practice to be analysed so far, however it will be interesting to monitor the nature of the irregularities/inconsistencies which could trigger the refusal of the Endorsement and whether such coincide with the conditions for the revocation or even annulment of the environmental permits and/or authorizations, since the missing annual endorsement would have as a consequence the exact same effect as the revocation or even annulment of the environmental permits and/or authorizations.
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