Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (EU)

European Directive 2014/52/EU amends the existing European EIA Directive, effective 15 May 2014.

Subscribers to Cardinal Environment Tailored EHS Legislation Registers have this amendment loaded as part of their consolidated EU law (where they have the EIA Directive).

Member States have until 16 May 2017 to implement the revision. Email Alerts will be sent out when local law changes. (Remember as a European Directive, it is not binding within a Member State until the local law changes).

The amendment is intended to lighten unnecessary administrative burdens and make it easier to assess potential impacts, without weakening existing environmental safeguards.

The EU guidance lists seven things that the new directive does differently:

– Simplification: EIA procedures must be simplified by member states;
– Timeframes: these are introduced for some stages e.g. screening decisions;
– Screening: asking whether EIA is required is simplified;
– Reports: environmental statements are renamed EIA reports and must be made more understandable;
– Quality and content: EIA reports are to be improved and conflicts of interest avoided;
– Decisions: application decisions must be clear and transparent and timeframes may be introduced (i.e. optionally);
– Monitoring: projects with significant effects on the environment must be monitored

This is a presentation which gives greater detail.

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.

Deep Drilling Amendment Proposed for EIA (Ireland)

A review of the transposition of the European Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive in Irish law, as relevant to the Marine Planning and Foreshore section of the Department, has identified that amendments to the relevant legislation are required to ensure that Point 2(d) of Annex II of the Directive (which refers to deep drillings) is adequately transposed.

The relevant legislation includes the Planning and Development Act, the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 and the Foreshore Act. As the amendments will give effect to EU law, an amending regulation under the European Communities Act 1972 is appropriate. An amendment to each of these pieces of legislation is considered appropriate.

The purpose of the amendments is to bring any deep drilling, except drilling for investigating the stability of the soil (the exception permitted by the EIA Directive) into the legislative framework. All deep drilling requiring either planning permission or a foreshore consent will have to be screened for EIA on a case by case basis by the relevant competent authority (i.e. the planning authority/An Bord Pleanála in the case of planning applications, or the Minister in the case of foreshore consents). EIA will be mandatory in respect of such deep drilling unless the screening process determines otherwise.

The Irish Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is inviting submissions on the recently published draft European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Planning and Development) Regulations which will make these amendments.

The draft Regulations are here.

Public consultation expires 17th January 2014. Information about the consultation is found here.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive

The European Parliament has today voted on the European Commission’s proposal for a revised EIA Directive.

Following today’s vote in the European Parliament on the revised Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said:

“I welcome the outcome of today’s vote on the Commission’s proposal for a revised Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. This paves the way for much-needed changes that will modernise the current directive, in line with the REFIT agenda, improving its effectiveness and streamlining related administrative processes. Fundamentally, it’s a vote of confidence in what has always been one of the foundations of EU environment policy, a key piece of legislation that ensures the concerns of citizens are taken into account when important new developments are needed. We will now be carefully examining the proposed amendments. I look forward to working closely with the Parliament and Member States to ensure progress is made towards adopting the revised directive as soon as possible.”

Per the European Commission’s webpage on this – the proposed revised EIA Directive is intended to lighten unnecessary administrative burdens and make it easier to assess potential impacts, without weakening existing environmental safeguards. “The quality of the decision-making process will be reinforced, current levels of environmental protection will be improved, and businesses should enjoy a more harmonised regulatory framework. The changes are also forward looking, and emerging challenges that are important to the EU as a whole in areas like resource efficiency, climate change, biodiversity and disaster prevention will now be reflected in the assessment process.”