MEPs and the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council reached an agreement on draft legislation aiming to better harmonize the way environmental impact assessments are carried out in the EU, on Friday. Measures, supported by MEPs, to enhance transparency, public participation and take new environmental factors into account were taken on board. However, exploration and extraction activities for non-conventional hydrocarbons are not included in the scope of the directive.
“The agreement reached on the revision of the Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment marks a very important stage in the history of EU environmental policy! After more than 28 years of application it is time to update this essential operational tool of the environmental policy of the European Parliament with respect to the new global challenges of the twenty-first century", said MEP Andrea Zanoni (ALDE, IT), who is steering the legislation through Parliament.
Better transparency and prevention of conflicts of interest
“New environmental factors such as biodiversity and climate will be taken into account in EIA’s. The text will ensure better transparency in the procedure and will facilitate public participation through the creation of a central portal. It enshrines clear rules on conflict of interest and asks Member States to lay down rules on penalties for violations of the rules.
There is now a strong limitation of the possibility of recourse to the derogations. New criteria for decision-making and information to be provided in the environmental report - such as the cumulation of projects, hydro-morphological changes, or risk assessment - all this and much more will be part of the new EIA Directive” Mr Zanoni added.
Shale gas projects not included
“Unfortunately, a strong blocking minority of Member States opposed the introduction of a mandatory environmental impact assessment for the extraction and exploration of shale gas, as Parliament wanted. This is unacceptable. Europe is not the Wild West! Council’s determination to exclude citizens and local governments from decision-making will only increase the - justified - distrust in this form of energy” he said.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive applies to both public and private projects. It sets out certain criteria, including the information that must be submitted to national authorities for a project to be assessed for approval. The legislation covers a broad range of projects, ranging from bridges to intensive pig farms.