Compromise agreed over EIA Directive
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The European parliament has dropped its plans to mandate environmental impact assessments for shale gas projects in an agreement to finalise the new directive
After a fourth round of negotiations in December between the European parliament, the commission and the committee representing the 28 member states, a compromise agreement has been reached on the text for the new EIA Directive.
While the full draft text is not publicly available, IEMA has learned that a proposal by MEPs to amend annex I and mandate EIA for all unconventional oil and gas extraction projects has been withdrawn as a part of the compromise.
With the parliament in favour of further broadening the revisions proposed by the European commission in October 2012 and the council advocating fewer changes, there had been concerns that an agreement on the new directive would be delayed until after the European parliamentary elections in May.
The compromise agreement means that the text now only needs to be formally approved by the European parliament, with the plenary vote expected in the next three months, and then by the council.
“We tried to find a rational solution within the council and with the European parliament, which would improve the quality and compatibility of EIA processes in the EU,” commented Valentinas Mazuronis, environment minister of Lithuania, which held the EU council presidency until the start of 2014 and listed EIA as one of its priorities.
“We aimed at finding a reasonable and balanced agreement without fundamental changes of the underlying Directive. As a result minimum quality requirements for different elements of the EIA process will be established.”
The compromise text is understood to contain many elements of the commission’s original proposals, including a broader scope – encompassing sustainability, climate change, habitats and biodiversity; requirements to describe reasonable alternatives; a central role for competent experts; and to implement mitigation and compensation measures.
However, there remains a lack of clarity on how the text approaches screening and scoping. The council, commission and parliament have been advocating a late scoping process linked to the planning application process. However, IEMA warns that such an approach risks confusing industry and fails to recognise the value in an early scoping process.
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As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the EIA Quality Mark, IEMA can announce that, during the past 12 months, the scheme has undergone a thorough review of practice, including stakeholder consultation with registrants and assessors, in order to improve it.
The delivery of effective outcomes for the environment, communities and development is a team effort, and more so when it comes to consenting projects that undergo Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).