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

Module 2: Focus on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The process of an EIA: Steps of the EIA procedure - Environmental report

Article 5(1) of the EIA Directive:
 
Where an environmental impact assessment is required, the developer shall prepare and submit an environmental impact assessment report. The information to be provided by the developer shall include at least:

  1. a description of the project comprising information on the site, design, size and other relevant features of the project;
  2. a description of the likely significant effects of the project on the environment;
  3. a description of the features of the project and/or measures envisaged in order to avoid, prevent or reduce and, if possible, offset likely significant adverse effects on the environment;
  4. a description of the reasonable alternatives studied by the developer, which are relevant to the project and its specific characteristics, and an indication of the main reasons for the option chosen, taking into account the effects of the project on the environment;
  5. a non-technical summary of the information referred to in points (a) to (d); and
  6. any additional information specified in Annex IV relevant to the specific characteristics of a particular project or type of project and to the environmental features likely to be affected.

Article 5(3) of the EIA Directive:
 
In order to ensure the completeness and quality of the environmental impact assessment

  1. the developer shall ensure that the environmental impact assessment report is prepared by competent experts;
  2. the competent authority shall ensure that it has, or has access as necessary to, sufficient expertise to examine the environmental impact assessment report; and
  3. where necessary, the competent authority shall seek from the developer supplementary information, in accordance with Annex IV, which is directly relevant to reaching the reasoned conclusion on the significant effects of the project on the environment.

The environmental report (or EIA report) is the most important document in the entire EIA process, as also confirmed by the definition provided by point (g), which mentions already in its first point the preparation of an EIA report by the developer as one of the essential elements on an EIA.

The EIA report must include the necessary information for the competent authority to reach a reasoned conclusion as required for development consent, and should be of a sufficient quality to enable this judgment.

Article 5(1) of the EIA Directive sets out what the developer has to include as a minimum in the EIA Report with Annex IV (referred to in Article 5(1)(f)) expanding on these requirements. This includes the following:

Baseline scenario: a description of the current state of the environment, and the likely evolution thereof without the implementation of the project. This sets the stage for the subsequent EIA and provides a reference for the evaluation of the environmental effects of the project (Annex IV.3).

A description of the project: an introduction to the project, including a description of its geographical location(s), the characteristics of the construction, and the operational phases of the project, as well as estimates of the expected residues, emissions, and waste produced during the construction and operation phases (Article 5(1)(a) and Annex IV.1).

Environmental factors affected: a description of the environmental factors/media impacted by the project, with specific emphasis being placed on climate change, biodiversity, natural resources, and accidents and disasters (Article 3, Annex IV.4 and IV.8).

Effects on the environment: this section addresses the concept of ‘significant effects’ and the importance of cumulative effects (Article 5(1)(b), Annex IV.5).

Assessment of alternatives: reasonable alternatives to the project must be described and compared, along with an indication of the main reasons for the selection of the option chosen (Article 5(1)(d) and Annex IV.2).

Mitigation or compensation measures: measures to avoid, prevent or reduce, and offset adverse effects shall be provided by the developer (Article 5(1)(c) and Annex IV.7).

Monitoring: monitoring measures should be proposed in the EIA report, where significant adverse effects have been identified. This monitoring should be carried out during the construction and operation of a project (Annex IV.7).

Non-technical summary: an easily accessible summary of the content of the EIA Report, free of technical jargon, hence understandable to anybody without a background in the project or the local environmental conditions, shall be provided (Article 5(1)(e) and Annex IV.9). This document is key for the purpose of public participation.

Article 5(3) establishes quality criteria for the preparation of the EIA report. Given the fact that according to the experience of the European Commission as well as the Member States there was a large divergence between the quality of EIA reports, these provisions were reinforced by the 2014 amendments of the EIA Directive and requirements for both the developer and the competent authority on access to specific expertise of both the preparation and the review of the EIA report were introduced.

As a last instalment of its 2017 EIA Guidance documents, the European Commission has also recently published a Guidance on the preparation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report. (More information: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/pdf/EIA_guidance_EIA_report_final.pdf)

 


Developed by the Academy of European Law (ERA)