Environmental permits

You will need an environmental permit if there is a risk that your activities may pollute the environment. Depending on the activity and its scope, you will submit your permit application to the Regional State Administrative Agency or the municipal environmental protection authority.  

You may not start your activity before it has been granted a permit or before the permit has become legally valid.  

Giving public notice of applications and decisions

When we process a water permit application at the Regional State Administrative Agency, we will inform other authorities and interested parties about the application, i.e. we will publish a public notice. We will send the notice to parties who have a particular interest in the matter, i.e. owners of land and waters in the area of impact and their neighbours. In other words, if you have received a notice of public consultation, your benefit or right is considered to be affected by the activity or project.  

A party may respond to the notice by filing an objection. The public notice mentions where the application documents are available and how you can file an objection. The public notice also includes the details of the person who is handling the matter. You can contact them to ask for advice. If you don‘t have any comments to make, you don’t have to do anything.

There are two ways to comment on a pending application. The parties may file an objection to a pending application. The parties are those persons whose interests or rights may be affected. Persons other than the parties concerned have the right to express their opinion on the application.   

You can read the documents related to the application in the Regional State Administrative Agency’s Permit information service, where they will be displayed for at least 30 days after the publication of the notice. Find out the register number of the application matter and the name of the applicant. You will need these for filing an objection or opinion.   

Send objections and opinions to the authority processing the permit using an electronic form. The form has more detailed instructions on how to write your objection or opinion. You don’t need to identify yourself to use the service, and it is free of charge.   

You will find links to the Permit information service and the electronic form at the end of this page. 

In the Permit information service, you can access in electronic format:   

  • matters pending at the Regional State Administrative Agencies   
  • public notices of applications that are at the consultation stage, and public application documents   
  • environmental and water permit decisions issued by the Regional State Administrative Agencies.   

The Permit information service does not have information on:  

  • pending compensation matters and the compensation decisions that have been issued   
  • administrative enforcement matter under the Water Act   
  • appeals.    

For information on these matters, contact the registries of Regional State Administrative Agencies. Links to the contact information of our registries and the Permit information service are provided at the bottom of this page. 

Information on permits

You will need a permit for activities such as:   

  • forestry   
  • metal industry   
  • chemical industry   
  • energy production   
  • storage, use or handling of chemicals or fuels   
  • mining of ores and minerals and manufacture of mineral products   
  • peat production   
  • manufacture of food and feeds   
  • wastewater treatment   
  • professional or facility-based handling, recovery, or disposal of waste   
  • livestock shelters and fur farms   
  • fisheries   
  • ports and airports.  

If you are not sure whether you need a permit, ask the Regional Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment or your municipality’s environmental protection authority for an opinion. 

Once you have been issued an environmental permit decision, it will, as a rule, be valid until further notice (i.e. permanently) unless the permit has been issued for a fixed period.   

A fixed-term permit will lapse on the day it expires.  

A permit valid until further notice is ordered to lapse on the basis of an application submitted by a supervisory authority, operator, municipality or injured party. The permit is ordered to lapse when, for example:  

  • the activities have not been started within five years of the granting of the permit  
  • the operator reports that operations have ended.  

An environmental permit is granted if the activity meets the requirements laid down in the Environmental Protection Act and the Waste Act. The requirements of the Nature Conservation Act will also be taken into account in the processing of the application.  

When processing an environmental permit application, the impacts of the activity are assessed, taking into account the location of the activity and the fragility of its environment. The environmental permit may also include provisions to limit the impacts of the activity. 

In the area affected by the activity, taking into account the restrictions laid down in the permit, the activity must not, alone or in combination with other activities, result in: 

  • harm to health   
  • unreasonable harm to neighbours under the Neighbour Relations Act   
  • environmental pollution or risk of pollution   
  • soil, groundwater or marine pollution   
  • deterioration of special natural conditions   
  • risk to water supply or other important public access.    

The Regional State Administrative Agency charges a fee from the applicant for processing the application. The amount of the fee is determined by government decree. The fee does not depend on whether the Regional State Administrative Agency issues a permit or rejects the application.  

Applying for a permit

Send the environmental permit application to the Regional State Administrative Agency for the region where your activity is located. There are six Regional State Administrative Agencies across Finland, but not all of them deal with environmental permits. 

Environmental permit applications are processed by the Regional State Administrative Agencies for Southern Finland, Eastern Finland, Western and Inland Finland and Northern Finland. If your project is in the region of Southwestern Finland, your application will be processed by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland. If your project is in Lapland, your application will be processed by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland. 

The Regional State Administrative Agencies and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment will provide advice on which authority you must send your application to. 

At the Regional State Administrative Agency, the average target processing time of an environmental permit application for a new activity or to change an activity is 10 months. Please note that the processing time may be prolonged by up to several months if:   

  • your application is incomplete  
  • you change your application when it is being processed.

Before submitting the application, find out the following:  

  • Do your planned activities require an environmental permit?  
  • Will your application be processed by a Regional State Administrative Agency or is it the responsibility of the municipal environmental protection authority?  
  • Does your activity have such impacts that you need a Natura assessment?  
  • Is your activity such that it should be subject to an environmental impact assessment (EIA)?  
  • Do you need to attach to your application separate nature reports which must be carried out at a certain time of the year?  

You can assess the activity’s need for an environmental permit and the need for other permits with the help of the service need analyser, which is a part of the Permits and Supervision service. Start your application by using the Permits and Supervision service, which allows you to fill in the common information for several permit applications concerning your activities, and to follow the processing of your application. 

Send your application to the Regional State Administrative Agency well in advance of the planned start date of the activity.    
  
For the information that you should include in your application, see chapter 2 of the Government Decree on Environmental Protection. The requirements have been described in more detail in the regional administration’s e-services, where you can fill in and submit your environmental permit application electronically for processing. 

You can also find more information and follow the processing of your application. If you cannot use the e-service, you can send your application by email. 

According to the law, the person preparing the environmental permit application must have sufficient expertise. If necessary, use a consultant to draw up your application.  

Processing of applications

If we ask you to supplement your application, you must send the required information by the deadline. If you have not sent the information by the deadline, we may reject your application as inadmissible. 

When your application has all the information we need, we will inform other authorities and the parties concerned; in other words, we will publish a public notice. The public notice and the documents are displayed in the permit information service for at least 30 days. Information on the public notice will also be published in those municipalities whose areas are covered by your application. 

The parties will receive a letter of public notice. We also announce significant applications in newspapers that are published in the area affected by the activities.   

During the public notice, we ask the necessary authorities and other parties for their opinions on the application matter. Others can also give their own opinions.  

After the public notice has expired, the Regional State Administrative Agency will send you the opinions and objections concerning your application. As the applicant, you may respond to them within a certain time limit. 

We will first see whether a permit can be granted, and then issue a decision to grant or to reject it. A permit is granted either until further notice or for a fixed period. For permits that are valid until further notice, the Regional State Administrative Agency sets the time limit by which you must start and complete the project.  

We will send the decision to the applicant, to the authorities that received a request for an opinion and to those who have separately requested the decision. The parties will receive a notice of the decision by post.  

If a permit is granted for your project, you must comply with the permit provisions specified in the decision.  

The decision may be appealed to the Vaasa Administrative Court within the appeal period. The decision becomes final only after the appeal period has expired and the decision has not been appealed.  

A decision may be appealed to the Vaasa Administrative Court during the appeal period. The permit decision will have instructions for filing an appeal and provide information on the limited appeal period.  

Other matters to take into account

You can start an activity that has been granted an environmental permit when the environmental permit decision has become final. The environmental permit decision becomes final 38 days after it was issued, provided that it has not been appealed to the Vaasa Administrative Court.  

However, the permit applicant may, for justified reasons, apply for the right to start the activity even before the decision becomes legally valid. The authority processing the permit deals with the application at the same time as the environmental permit application and issues provisions concerning it in the environmental permit decision. The authority processing the permit may order that the activity be carried out to a smaller extent than that provided in the permit decision, and order the starting date of the implementation.   

If the permit applicant is granted the right to start the activity before the decision becomes final, the authority processing the permit may order the applicant to pay a security. The security obligates the permit applicant to restore the environment to its original state if the permit decision is repealed or the permit provisions are amended. The requirement to pay a security does not apply to the state, central government agencies, municipalities or joint municipal authorities.  
   
A person who has been granted a permit may apply for the right to start an activity within 14 days from the end of the appeal period by submitting a separate application. Before making the decision, the authority processing the permit will consult the supervisory authorities and those who have appealed against the permit decision.

As a rule, the permit decision is final. However, the permit may be changed in certain cases.  

The licence holder is required to submit an application for changing the permit if there have been significant changes in the operations.  

The permit holder may apply to change the permit, or other parties can make an initiative to change it.  

The authority enforcing compliance with the permit or an injured party may make an initiative to change the permit if:  

  • the consequences of the activities differ substantially from those anticipated in advance  
  • conditions in the operating environment have changed significantly  
  • the best available technology has developed in such a way that emissions can be substantially reduced without excessive costs  
  • the change must be made due to legislative amendments that restrict activities.  

The initiative must explain why changes are proposed.  

Compared to other permit processes, changing a permit is often a simpler process. However, good governance requires adequate consultation of all interested parties.

The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and municipal environmental protection authorities supervise activities requiring an environmental permit throughout the life cycle of the activity. 

Frequently asked questions

If you are not sure whether you need a permit or to which authority you should send your application, please contact your local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment or the municipal environmental protection authority. These supervisory authorities provide relevant advice and, where appropriate, an opinion on the need for a permit. The Regional State Administrative Agency cannot comment on whether or not your activity needs a permit.

Both the Regional State Administrative Agencies and municipalities handle environmental permits. The authority processing the permit depends on the nature and size of the activity. The division of matters between different environmental protection authorities is based on section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act and chapter 1 of the Environmental Protection Decree.

Links to legal texts