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Council of Ministers approves reformed EIA directive

The Council of Ministers has backed changes to a series of environmental laws including the environmental impact assessment (EIA), fluorinated gases, the emissions trading system (ETS) and environmental accounts. The MEPs and the Member State representatives have reached agreement on the revision of the 1985 environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive in December last year. MEPs had wanted EIAs to become mandatory for shale gas projects using fracking, but Ministers stopped short of this in their final compromise. However, the compromise does allow for the cumulative impact of projects to be taken into account rather than a slicing up of bigger schemes into smaller ones to avoid the need for EIAs. The compromise reached also allows for a three-year transposition period for the legal implementation of the legislation in return for national authorities adopting penalties for non-compliance immediately. The new directive is likely to impact specifically on the strengthening of screening processes, a new broader scope meaning new environmental topics, the introduction of monitoring for significant adverse effects and, more importantly for ENEP members, an enhancement of the role of environmental and sustainability professionals. Amongst the derogations adopted are cases where the directive would adversely affect the aim of a project and the public consultation rules for projects. The deal also allows for more public engagement through a central online portal, clarifies rules on conflicts of interest, and extends the list of impacts considered in EIAs to include climate change, biodiversity and hydromorphology. Critically, the text requiring Member States to use accredited experts to verify EIAs has been replaced by the need for “sufficient expertise” to “examine” them. Project developers therefore only need to use competent experts to draw up EIAs rather than accredited ones. Transposition in the Member States is necessary before spring 2017. READ MORE

Issue 33