Legal brief: ECJ considers mandatory EIAs

5th March 2015

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Christopher J Esbester

The Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) has ruled in the proceedings between Marktgemeinde Straßwalchen and the Bundesminister für Wirtschaft, Familie und Jugend concerning a decision to allow Rohöl-Aufsuchungs AG to carry out exploratory drilling in the municipality of Straßwalchen in Austria.

The Austrian courts had asked the ECJ for a preliminary ruling on the drilling of a well more than 4,000m deep for gas exploration without an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The ECJ concluded that annex I to the EIA Directive (the list of activities likely to have a significant impact on the environment and subject to mandatory EIA) does not include oil and gas exploration activities. However, it also said that the activities fell under the scope of the annex II (discretion of states on whether EIA is required), adding that: “Member states [should] determine through a case-by-case examination or through thresholds or criteria set by them whether projects listed in annex II are to be made subject to an EIA.”

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