The minister covered three areas of greatest concern to BPCC member companies – shale gas, municipal waste, and river management.
Mr Grabowski said that legislative work was under way to make foreign investors feel more secure about exploring for shale gas in Poland. He stated that gas companies would be taxed at 40% of their profits after 2020. This rate, consulted, he said, which was consulted with the IMF and benchmarked across other gas producing countries, was optimally balanced to ensure the Polish shale gas market was interesting to investors while raising a decent revenue for the state treasury. The permit system would be simplified, with only one permit now being needed for exploration and production. He said that the department dealing with permits had been enhanced, and now 40 people were dealing with geological concessions, the better to service investors.
Asked about the government's fears of popular protests against fracking, Mr Grabowski said that the fact that Poland's shale gas reserves were located 3km below ground level was a blessing as well as an obstacle. Because the fracking would occur three times deeper than in the US, there would be no worries about the fluid seeping into the water-course, nor worries about seismic events. Asked about shale gas and European energy security, Mr Grabowski confirmed that in the EU 2030 negotiations, Poland's position was close to that of its British partners, with no difference of approach.
Turning to municipal waste, the minister said that the new law, passed last summer, put the onus on local authorities to deal with the issue. “Under the new system, they have become the owners of the waste,” he said. “At the moment, the local authorities are still learning by doing. They will have to learn to enter into longer-term contracts with waste collection, segregation and incineration companies. Some are even offering six-month contracts. They will learn that this is not enough to attract investors,” said Mr Grabowski. “They will learn as new tenders are prepared. Central government has no intention to interfere,” he said.
On the question of financing new incineration plants – needed to satisfy the European Commission, which wants Poland to stop dumping municipal waste – he said that EU funds were the best option. “There will be less risk for local authority and investor. We don't want to impose strict contract terms that local authorities should propose to investors – five or ten years – but we do want to promote best practice in this area,” he said.
On the question of river management and flood protection, Mr Grabowski said that he intended to streamline the administration of Poland's rivers from seven regional authorities to just two – one for the Vistula river basin, the other for the Odra/Nysa rivers. He said that currently there were several major flood protection projects ongoing, one for the upper Vistula, three for the Odra and Nysa protecting Wrocław. Along with a major simulation of floods for the Odra and Vistula rivers, there were also hundreds of smaller projects at the regional level. Seventy will be completed this year and next, he said.