Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (EU)

Update: the 2014/52/EU amendment of the pre-existing EIA Directive is here.

Member States have until 16 May 2017 to implement the changes.

The new approach pays greater attention to threats and challenges that have emerged since the original rules came into force some 25 years ago. This means more attention to areas like resource efficiency, climate change and disaster prevention, which are now better reflected in the assessment process.

The main amendments are as follows:
* Member States now have a mandate to simplify their different environmental assessment procedures.
* Timeframes are introduced for the different stages of environmental assessments: screening decisions should be taken within 90 days (although extensions are possible) and public consultations should last at least 30 days. Members States also need to ensure that final decisions are taken within a “reasonable period of time”.
* The screening procedure, determining whether an EIA is required, is simplified. Decisions must be duly motivated in the light of the updated screening criteria.
* EIA reports are to be made more understandable for the public, especially as regards assessments of the current state of the environment and alternatives to the proposal in question.
* The quality and the content of the reports will be improved. Competent authorities will also need to prove their objectivity to avoid conflicts of interest.
* The grounds for development consent decisions must be clear and more transparent for the public. Member States may also set timeframes for the validity of any reasoned conclusions or opinions issued as part of the EIA procedure.
* If projects do entail significant adverse effects on the environment, developers will be obliged to do the necessary to avoid, prevent or reduce such effects. These projects will need to be monitored using procedures determined by the Member States. Existing monitoring arrangements may be used to avoid duplication of monitoring and unnecessary costs.

Background

As a result of a review of the pre-existing EIA Directive, on 26 October 2012 the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new Directive that would amend the current Directive.

The proposal is intended to lighten unnecessary administrative burdens and make it easier to assess potential impacts, without weakening existing environmental safeguards. In addition, the quality of the decision-making process is to be reinforced, current levels of environmental protection are to be improved, and there should be a more harmonised regulatory framework.

My post in 2013 is here.

On 12 March 2014 the European Parliament (EP) adopted its first reading position to the revised EIA Directive (528 votes to 135 with 15 abstentions). The EP’s position includes amendments aiming to: correct shortcomings of the current regime, reflect on-going environmental and socio-economic changes and challenges in the legislation and align it with the principles of smart regulation. New elements to be introduced in the EIA procedure include one-stop shop for assessments deriving from EIA and Nature Directives, quality control mechanism, mandatory assessment of reasonable alternatives, monitoring, broader scope of the EIA covering new issues (climate change, biodiversity, risks prevention), as well as justification of screening/EIA decisions.

The Council of Ministers is to vote on the file in the course of April. If the Council approves the EP position, the amended Directive is expected to enter into force in May 2014 with a 3-year deadline for transposition by Members States.

The text of the adopted changes (voted on by the Council of Ministers) is here.

Subscribers to Cardinal Environment Tailored EHS Legislation Registers (taking the EIA Directive) will have their websystems updated when the revised EIA Directive is finalised.

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