The municipality may successfully demand prevention of environmental damage

The municipality may successfully demand prevention of environmental damage

The decision of the Regional Court in Poznań of 30 September 2021 dismissed the interlocutory appeal of a company which is one of the gas network operators in Poland against the decision to secure the claim of the Law Firm’s Client, i.e. a municipality located in Poznań District. The security granted by the Court consists in ordering the gas pipeline operator to temporarily shut down the pipeline on account of a probable occurrence of a threat of a serious environmental damage – until the conclusion of the proceedings.

The municipality brought an action against the operator of the gas pipeline for restoring compliance with the law and for taking preventive measures to protect the environment from serious harm – pursuant to Article 323(1) and (2) of the Environmental Protection Law. These claims are very rarely the subject of court proceedings, and the case brought by the Law Firm on behalf of its Client has almost a precedent character.

In the facts of the case, one of the plots of land located in the Municipality that is crossed by an underground high-pressure gas pipeline was subject to long-term fertilization by a third party over the protective zone of the gas pipeline, with the consent of a private owner. In the course of discussions and negotiations prior to the municipality’s legal action, the gas pipeline operator had admitted the risk of pipeline leakage and gas explosion leading obviously to environmental damage – due to excessive load on the pipeline and lack of detailed information on the current technical condition of the pipeline built in the 1970s. At the same time, however, the gas pipeline operator demanded that the costs of removing the spoil from above the pipeline be borne by the Municipality – as a substitute fulfillment of the obligations of the owner of the property on which the spoil was dumped in administrative proceedings.

However, both the Court that granted security for the Municipality’s claim and the Court examining the interlocutory appeal adopted the opposite argumentation, according to which in the situation of a real threat of environmental damage in connection with the risk of unsealing the gas pipeline and the established passivity of the operator, who did not sufficiently investigate the technical condition of the pipeline, especially in the situation where the owner of the real property has been violating the protective zone of the gas pipeline for a long time and spreading spoil over it, and has not applied for establishing a transmission easement on the real property in its favour – it is the operator who is obligated to remove the threat of environmental damage.

The case is conducted by attorney-at-law Przemysław Przerywacz and attorney-at-law Michał Twardowski.

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