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Training package on EU Environmental Assessment Law – Focus on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directives

Module 1: Environmental Assessments in the EU’s environmental policy

Introduction

As a consequence of increasing general public awareness of environmental issues after the second world war, as well as growing first hand evidence of the environmental consequences of industrial activities and infrastructure as such, public and private projects were gradually facing an increasing level of both public and institutional scrutiny not only in the United States but also in Northern and Western Europe. In the United States, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted on 1 January 1970, the most significant outcome of which was the requirement that all executive federal agencies have to prepare environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, addressing the potential environmental effects of proposed federal agency actions. (More information: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-83/pdf/STATUTE-83-Pg852.pdf) The NEPA served as a model for a number of national environmental assessment-related pieces of legislation all over the world. In Europe, relevant work started under the auspices of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) (More information: www.unece.org) in the 1970s.

Environmental assessment is a procedure that ensures that the environmental implications of decisions are taken into account before the decisions are made. Environmental assessment can be undertaken either for a variety of individual projects, such as a dam, motorway, airport or factory, on the basis of Directive 2011/92/EU (also known as the 'Environmental Impact Assessment' or, in short, the EIA Directive) or for public plans or programmes from a number of sectors on the basis of Directive 2001/42/EC (also known as 'Strategic Environmental Assessment' or SEA Directive). The common principle of both Directives is to ensure that plans, programmes and projects likely to have significant effects on the environment are made subject to an environmental assessment prior to their approval or authorisation. Consultation with the public is a key feature of environmental assessment procedures.

The Directives on Environmental Assessment aim to provide a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation of projects, plans and programmes with a view to reducing their environmental impact. They ensure public participation in decision-making and thereby strengthen the quality of decisions.
(More information: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/index_en.htm)

 


Developed by the Academy of European Law (ERA)