Small steps forward on diminishing the environmental impact of major projects but concerns remain
SMALL STEPS FORWARD ON DIMINISHING THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF MAJOR PROJECTS BUT CONCERNS REMAIN
For immediate release: 26 October 2012
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Justice & Environment (J&E) have welcomed the European Commission proposal for a revision of the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) released earlier today . Both NGO federations consider that the proposal in many respects represents an improvement on the existing Directive, attempting to address many of the shortcomings they have criticised over the years, but are concerned that a number of shortcomings remain, especially relating to public involvement in the process.
The criteria for whether or not a project should have an EIA are now more specific. The proposed text includes new aspects to be taken into account, such as impacts on climate change, and more comprehensive analysis of environmental impacts. . Once the project is under way, the proposal then provides for monitoring of the environmental impact, though this is still not a requirement for all projects.
Jeremy Wates, EEB Secretary General reacted: “For years, developers have got away with avoiding having the environmental impact of projects taken into account by splitting up projects into small parts; otherwise known as ‘salami slicing’. The EEB is happy to see that today’s proposal deals with this by examining the accumulation of impacts of multiple projects by the same or different developers.” However he added that more remains to be done to bring the directive into the 21st century: “This proposal makes no attempt to deal with the bizarre situation whereby the project developer is under no obligation to guarantee that the EIA is carried out before the project starts.”
Despite some improvements in many aspects the proposal remains in contravention of the Aarhus Convention. There is no provision to halt projects while court cases are pending: something which is both unacceptable and in breach of the Convention.
"This proposal lacks any improvement regarding access to justice or public participation even though the case law of the European Court of Justice and the Compliance Committee of the UN-ECE Aarhus Convention both found that it should do”, states Thomas Alge, Chair of the association Justice and Environment, representing NGOs focussing on environmental law and litigation in various EU member states. "Among other things it is not acceptable that NGOs are not explicitly entitled to participate and challenge screening procedures for projects. This means public participation rights remain in breach of the international obligations of the EU and its Member States."
 The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (85/337/EEC) came into force in 1985 and has served since then as a key instrument of EU environmental policy. The purpose of the Directive is to ensure that projects affecting infrastructure, dams, industrial plants, quarries etc which are likely to have significant effects on the environment are assessed and alternatives taken into consideration.
 1998 Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, adopted under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
 European Commission Press Release: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-1158_en.htm?locale=en
 EIA EC Homepage http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/home.htm
 2012 Justice and Environment study on Aarhus Conventions implications on the EIA directive:
 Proposed amendment text of the EIA directive:
Regina Schneider EEB Head of Communications, Enforcement co-ordinator
+32 (0) 2289 10 95
Thomas Alge, Justice and Environment, +43 699 102-95-159; Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org;