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New EIA directive: EP environment committee makes changes to new directive

Following a vote in the EP environment committee this month, shale gas, shale oil and coal-bed methane exploration projects should be subject to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). The vote upholds rapporteur Andrea Zanoni MEP’s view that the exploration, evaluation and extraction of the fuels be covered by the revised EIA Directive, which is currently being debated between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The Committee also backed some of the changes to existing law proposed by the European Commission, such as taking into account cumulative effects with other projects. The aim is to prevent EIAs being avoided by splitting bigger strategic projects into smaller schemes. MEPs did however weaken the Commission’s request to improve the quality and reliability of the EIA process. The Commission had also proposed that impact assessments required under other pieces of EU legislation, such as the Habitats Directive be done jointly with EIAs. MEPs and Member States agree that this should only be optional. Interestingly, Parliament did back the Commission on the new requirement to set up accreditation schemes for EIA experts but insisted through a series of approved amendments that independent experts to verify EIAs they would have to offer guarantees of competence and impartiality and work “without any interference or influence from the competent authority, the developer or the national authorities” Meanwhile, the committee made few changes to the deadlines proposed by the Commission which requires authorities to decide if a project should be subject to EIA in 90 days, exceptionally 150 in certain cases READ MORE

Issue 25