The grim legacy of environmental degradation in Poland under communist rule has been extensively documented in recent years. Since the regime’s collapse, technical and popular publications have reported its toxic legacy in detail: suffocating air in the major cities, levels of particulates and sulfur dioxide (especially in the heavily industrialized southwest) far exceeding those in Western Europe and the United States; widespread erosion of historical structures and monuments; dangerous soil contamination with heavy metals; degradation of groundwater; and rivers too polluted to use for industrial processes and agriculture (Kabala 1985; Ember 1990; Institute of Environmental Protection 1990; Fischhoff 1991; World Resources Institute 1992).
Poland in 1989 faced multiple challenges: to ameliorate the worst physical manifestations of past abuses, to improve an environmental regulatory system that allowed some of the worst pollution in Europe and to dismantle the entrenched practice of general disregard for, and lack of enforcement of, existing standards. Three factors worked in favor of environmental progress: the existence in 1989 of a well-developed framework of laws, policies and institutions for environmental protection; the high national profile environmental issues had achieved during the peak years of political opposition to the communist regime; and intense scrutiny and pressure from the international community, accompanied by modest financial and technical assistance. On the other hand, the ambitious environmental agenda for Poland would be pursued at time of profound political and economic change and with the government under considerable pressure to meet other societal goals, such as improved competitiveness of Polish industry in international markets, maintaining