Right of appeal ‒ Water Act – Water resources management permit – Aarhus convention ‒ Economic zone – Environmental organisation – Foundation – Area of operation according to rules – Project's area of influence

In the case, the essential ruling was whether the foundation promoting environmental protection had the right to lodge an appeal against the Regional State Administrative Agency's decision, by which a permit had been issued under the Water Act for placing two natural gas pipes on the sea bottom and for their use in Finland's exclusive economic zone. According to the rules of the foundation having lodged the appeal against the permit decision, its area of operation was Poland and other countries.

According to the wording of section 15(2)(2) of the Water Act and preliminary work, the area of operation of the organisation referred to in the provision should be assessed according to its rules. According to the provision, the environmental impacts in question in the matter under appeal must manifest themselves in the said area of operation of the organisation.

The definition of the area of operation of the foundation having lodged an appeal against the permit decision could be considered to correspond to the purpose of the organisation's operations and its actual operations in view of the location and impact area of the water resources management project subject to the appeal. In assessing the right of appeal pursuant to section 15(2)(2) of the Water Act, the Administrative Court could not consider that the area of operation of the foundation according to its rules only concerned the area of Poland. There was no reason to interpret the wording of the provision in a narrow sense either, taking into consideration the broad right of appeal that was the object of the Aarhus Convention in the ways referred to in section 9(2) of the Convention and the legal practice of the Court of Justice of the European Union that concerns the right of appeal of environmental organisations in matters related to the Union's environmental legislation.

The decision of the Administrative Court, by which the appeal of the foundation was dismissed, was annulled. The Supreme Administrative Court immediately accepted the appeal lodged with the Administrative Court for consideration and rejected it.

Water Act (587/2011) section 15(2)

Published 19.8.2019