Environmental impact assessment (EIA)
The EU legislation establishing common minimum requirements on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (EIA) was revised after it has been implemented for nearly 20 years largely un-amended.
The Directive seeks to ensure public authorities make well informed decisions when giving permits to development projects, and is one of the key instruments for environmental integration. Problems that have been identified relate to differences in applying the screening criteria between Member States (for projects which are not subject to mandatory EIA on the basis of sector or size), quality of the analysis, and inconsistencies with other legislation.
What was the Greens' position?
The Greens’ priority was to include fracking, i.e. shale gas exploration and extraction under mandatory environmental impact assessment, in order to ensure proper assessment of the baseline, including groundwater quality, and combined effects, and to allow for proper consultation of stakeholders. In addition, the Greens wanted to ensure more robust screening of other types of projects where EIA is not always mandatory, and to ensure independence and expertise of those conducting the environmental impact assessments.
Did other MEPs accept the Greens' position?
The first reading agreement concluded constitutes an improvement to the existing directive, although the Commission proposal ambition regarding the quality of EIAs was weakened. The directive includes some new elements of assessing alternatives and monitoring of identified impacts. It also limits the possibility to derogate through adopting permits by a national law.
Which points did the Greens lose?
Fracking for shale gas was not included under mandatory EIA, there is no direct change in comparison to the current regime. Deep drilling remains in Annex II, i.e. activities which require Member States to determine whether a project needs to undergo full environmental impact assessment, however Member States may also establish thresholds or criteria determining when projects need not under go either "determination" nor EIA. If a project is subject to the "determination" and the information obligations under Annex IIA, and a full EIA is not considered necessary, the project does not need to assess the baseline or alternatives. Where a project is subject to full EIA, the report must include description of the current state of environment (baseline), reasonable alternative and assess i.a. hydromorphological changes.
The Greens voted against the first reading agreement as it was not considered acceptable to close the file in first reading without covering shale gas exploration and extraction under mandatory EIA (especially when a large majority of MEPs had voted (RCV AM79 cp) 524 (+8 correction of votes) /118/ 15) in favour of making EIA mandatory for shale gas extraction.
Procedure:Ordinary legislative procedure
Lead MEP:Andrea Zanoni (ALDE)
Green MEP responsible:Sandrine Bélier
Staff contact:Terhi Lehtonen (Email)