EIA update - June

1st June 2015


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Author

Sarah Sisson

BSI has launched a standard to drive best practice in environmental impact assessment (EIA) for offshore renewable projects.

The UK national standards body developed 6900 with Renewable UK, the Marine Management Organisation and Marine Scotland, as well as several companies, including ABPMer, Renewable Energy Services and Scottish Power.

The authors of 6900 researched recent EIAs on offshore renewable projects to identify good or innovative practice and processes to avoid. The standard includes case studies, templates and engagement plans.

BSI hopes that the standard will help developers of offshore wind farms and other renewables projects and EIA consultants to commission, screen, scope and execute future assessments more quickly and at lower cost. David Fatscher, head of market development for sustainability at BSI, said: “The development and delivery of standards is important for driving the industrialisation of offshore renewable energy.

"Appropriate standards create a foundation for growth based upon recognised benchmarks of quality and promote UK competitiveness by reducing barriers to international trade.”

EIA research

Timing of screenings

Delaying the submission of an EIA screening request can help smooth the progression of a project through the planning process, according to experts at planning consultancy Terence O’Rourke in a new QMark paper. Jo Baker and Emma Robinson acknowledge that screening is usually completed early, but argue that delaying it might be more sensible, particularly where the decision on the need for EIA may be more ambiguous due to the scale of the development or the nature of potential effects. The authors say the lack of sufficient baseline information and initial assessment work can make it difficult for local planning authorities (LPA) to reach a decision, a situation compounded by a reduced lack of in-house technical expertise at LPAs. The authors also say that the additional information the revised EIA Directive (2014/52/EU) will require suggests there will need to be a more detailed consideration of project design and potentially significant issues at an earlier stage. This, they believe, will probably lead to a delay in the submission of screening reports to allow the information to be compiled.

environmentalistonline.com/timing

Cumulative effects

In a QMark paper, Michael Phillips, principal consultant at Dulas, reports on a wind farm project in Shropshire, which he says provides an example of the confusion that can sometimes emerge over whether part of a development needs to undergo an EIA. The difficulties encountered by the Reeves Hill project centred on an access track that required permission from a neighbouring authority and involved a screening decision by Welsh ministers. Phillips says the problems could have been avoided if the authorities had requested further information and visited the site to determine the relationship between the two developments and their potential environmental impacts.

environmentalistonline.com/reeves

International news

Australia

Federal authorities in Australia have launched an investigation after construction started on a £130 million port 20km off the coast of Darwin without government approval and without the correct environmental assessment. The deep-sea facility for the local woodchip industry at Port Melville on the Tiwi Islands is in an area the Northern Territory (NT) government says supports many species not recorded anywhere else in the world.

The NT Environment Protection Authority’s (NTEPA) said Ausgroup, the Singapore-based company behind the project, had not completed the assessment process required to secure approval. Meanwhile, the federal environment department reported that it had not received a referral, which is required for projects likely to affect areas of national environmental significance.

However, the chief minister for the NT, Adam Giles, said the company had provided documents to the NTEPA in support of the project, including: an operations environmental management plan; an environmental policy; an erosion and sediment control plan; and a draft biosecurity management plan. He also reported that the port developer was preparing further information that the NTEPA had demanded.

China

Plans to construct the largest hydropower dam in China have been refused by the country’s environment department after the project failed an environmental impact assessment. The proposed Xiaonanhai Dam on the Jinsha River, upstream of the Yangtze, would have generated 1.7MW of electricity and was due to be completed in 2019. China Daily reported that rare fish upstream of the Yangtze have been adversely affected over the past 10 years because of the dam projects on the Jinsha.

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