Environmental permits and supervision of environmental protection

A permit under the Environmental Protection Act is required for operations that cause a risk of environmental pollution. A permit is required e.g. for forest, metal and chemical industry plants, energy production plants, large livestock units, aquaculture establishments, peat production sites and mines.

Granting a permit is subject to the condition that the operations do not cause harm to health or significant environmental pollution or a risk of such pollution. Environmental permits may contain regulations e.g. on emissions and their reduction, waste and waste management, and preventing soil and groundwater contamination.

The permit authorities are the Regional State Administrative Agencies for Southern Finland, Eastern Finland, Western and Inland Finland and Northern Finland. In Finland there are about 10,400 establishments that require an environmental permit. The State is responsible for the permits of about 4,000 establishments and for their supervision.

The State Regional Administrative Agency (AVI) makes decisions on licences and permits pursuant to the Environmental Protection Act and the Water Act. The permit service contains information on permit matters under consideration and permit decisions that have been made.

Certain measures that cause minor environmental impacts do not require an environmental permit, but the general notification procedure under the Environmental Protection Act applies to them. A notification of registration is sufficient for certain types of operations.

Supervision by the State and municipalities

Besides the ex-ante supervision relating to the permit, registration and notification procedures, the authorities supervise the achievement of the objectives of environmental protection by monitoring the compliance with the acts, environmental permits, notification decisions and Government decrees concerning registration, and by making sure that the necessary approvals by the authorities have been applied for (ex-post supervision).

The supervisory authorities are the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and the municipal environmental protection authorities. Supervision is mainly targeted to operations that involve the greatest risk of causing environmental pollution. Supervision is implemented through planned inspections, by monitoring the load on and state of the environment, and by carrying out inspections in the event of an accident, harm or violation.

Where necessary, the authority may issues prohibitions, and advice or order the party responsible for the operation to fulfil their obligations. The authority may also issue an order concerning an operation that is not subject to a permit, notification or registration obligation. If violation against the law is suspected, the supervisory authority may also request the police to investigate the matter.

Supervision plans of the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for their respective territories.

More information

Oili Rahnasto, Senior Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Ympäristönsuojeluosasto, Päästöt ja ympäristöriskit 0295250244