The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published its ‘Draft Guidelines on the Information to be Contained in Environmental Impact Assessment Reports’ (EPA, May 2017), which are intended to guide practitioners during the transition to new Regulations transposing the updated EIA Directive. Projects falling within the scope of the amended Directive will now be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR), formerly referred to as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
European Union Directive 2011/92/EU and amended Directive 2014/52/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (the ‘EIA Directive’), require Member States to ensure that a competent authority carries out an assessment of the likely significant effects of certain types of project, prior to development consent being given for the project.
Member States had until 16th May 2017 to transpose the amended EIA Directive 2014/52/EU into national legislation. Although the transposition into Irish legislation had not occurred on the specified date, the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government issued a Circular Letter on 15th May 2017 providing advice on the implementation of the Directive. This included advice to competent authorities on the assessment of applications for planning permission received on or after 16th May 2017, which states:
“In respect of applications for planning permission or other development consent received on or after 16 May 2017 falling within the scope of Directive 2011/92/EU, or within the scope of Directive 2014/52/EU, competent authorities are advised to consider applying the requirements of Directive 2014/52/EU by way of administrative provisions in advance of the transposition of Directive 2014/52/EU into Irish law.”
The draft EPA Draft Guidelines provide updated information pertaining to the contents of EIARs, with particular reference to the key changes introduced by EIA Directive 2014/52/EU. Some of these changes include strengthening the requirements for the description and assessment of alternatives, avoidance of adverse effects, mitigation and monitoring, provision of relevant information, public participation and objectivity. In terms of the prescribed Environmental Factors to be covered by the EIAR, ‘Land’ has now been added, ‘Human Beings’ is replaced by ‘Population and Human Health’ and ‘Flora and Fauna’ is replaced by ‘Biodiversity’.
The Guidelines also specify where new provisions are required by the amended Directive to be addressed in the EIAR, including:
- Demolition works as part of a project description (where relevant);
- Use of natural resources during construction and operation;
- Impacts of climate change on a project as well as impacts of a project on climate change;
- Protection of the marine environment;
- Risks to human health, cultural heritage or the environment (due for example to accidents or disasters).
The Draft Guidelines will be reviewed and finalised by the EPA once the new Regulations are available. The EPA will also publish updated ‘Advice Notes for preparing Environmental Impact Assessment Reports’ after the Guidelines have been adopted and published. The Advice Notes will provide greater detail by way of practical guidance on individual environmental factors and on the likely ranges of effects caused by different project types.