Any operation that can cause contamination of the environment requires an environmental permit. The permit requirement is based on the Environmental Protection Act and related environmental protection decree that defines the operations requiring an environmental permit. The permit procedure is aimed at comprehensive understanding of the environmental hazards of operations and prevention of hazards.
Environmental permits may include regulations for the scope of operations, emissions and how to reduce emissions. The prerequisites for being granted an environmental permit include, for example, that the operation does not cause a health hazard, significant contamination of the environment or a risk thereof.
Operations requiring an environmental permit must not be commenced before the environmental permit is legally valid. Significant alterations to such operations, for example, significant expansions of their scope, also require an environmental permit.
The amendment to the Environmental Protection Act of 1 February 2019 introduced a notification procedure for certain operations that previously required an environmental permit (for example depots, storage areas for chemicals, many food— and fodder production facilities, amusement parks and zoos). Notification should be done no less than 120 days prior to commencing the operation. The authority´s decision concerning the notification may include regulations for the scope of operations.
Fuel distribution stations, asphalt stations and small combustion plants are exempted from the environmental permitting requirement if they fulfil certain criteria. Instead of applying for an environmental permit, an operator must submit an announcement to register the operation in the environmental data system no less than 90 days prior to commencing the operation.
Depending on the nature and scope of the operations, environmental permits in Helsinki are granted either by the Southern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency or the City environment committee's environment and permits sub-committee. Notifications are mostly handled by the environment and permits sub-committee, which also handles environmental permits related to contaminated soil. Cases for the permitting process are prepared for the environment and permits sub-committee by the City of Helsinki Environment Services.
Environmental permit applications and notifications can be made using a form issued by the environmental administration and following the related instructions. Applications and their attachments should be in three copies, signed and delivered to the appropriate permitting authority.
Processing of permit applications
Environmental permit applications and notifications should be submitted well before the projected commencement of operations, because no operation can be commenced before the related permit is legally valid. It takes at least three months to obtain a legally valid environmental permit or a decision about a notification, because
a permit application or notification must be on public display for 30 days,
the preparation of the case for decision making and the processing of the case in the City environment committee's environment and permits sub-committee take no less than 30 days, and
the appeal period in the Vaasa Administrative Court is 30 days.
Parties concerned can comment on permit applications and notifications during the appeal period. Comments may extend the period required for the preparation of cases for decision making. Decisions can be appealed to the Vaasa Administrative Court and further to the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Urban environment committee's environment and permits sub-committee makes statements on all current environmental permit applications by Helsinki institutions that are in process at the Southern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency. All these environmental permit applications can be reviewed during the period of public display at the City of Helsinki Register Office, address Pohjoisesplanadi 11–13, 00170 Helsinki.
The City of Helsinki charges a fee for the processing of an environmental permit, a notification or a registration announcement. This fee comprises a fixed basic fee based on the size of the institution or the scope of the operation, and a processing fee based on the extent of the processing procedure. The basic fee is 1,000–3,900 euro. The registrations have a fixed basic fee. The Southern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency charges fees for environmental permits in accordance with decisions by the Ministry of the Environment.