Environmental Impact Assessments
The Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency recently imposed an obligation on companies dealing with chemicals, hazardous and radioactive materials and wastes and other materials that may have an adverse effect on the environment to obtain environmental permits. The first permits are now being issued to new and existing projects and facilities in Abu Dhabi.
The agency works alongside the Federal Environmental Agency, the principal body responsible for environmental matters in the United Arab Emirates, in issuing environmental permits and related licences.
Additional bodies may need to be consulted depending on the activity to be undertaken (eg, the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture or Abu Dhabi National Oil Company).
The principal law is the Federal Law on the Protection and Development of the Environment (24/1999) and its Executive Regulations issued under Cabinet Resolution 37/2001. At an emirate level, additional laws may apply to certain projects (eg, the Abu Dhabi Law on the Conservation of Petroleum Resources 8/1978).
The law states that an assessment must be undertaken whenever a project that might affect the environment is proposed. The regulations outline the procedure to be applied for issuing environmental permits and imposes various obligations on competent authorities and relevant departments.
The agency is authorized to accept applications for environmental permits and either to grant them with or without conditions, or reject them. The types of project that require an environmental impact assessment include oil and gas projects, power generation and desalination facilities and land, air and marine transport projects.
The agency department responsible for issuing assessments is the Environmental Protection Division, which works in coordination with the Planning Department, Abu Dhabi Municipality, Abu Dhabi Industrial City, the Civil Defence Department and others, depending on the project in question. Projects currently under consideration include Taweelah IWPP (independent water and power producer) and the Dolphin Gas Pipeline Project.
Environmental Impact Assessments
The agency has produced internal draft rules and regulations for environmental impact assessments that contemplate a four-stage approach to each application - screening, scoping, reviewing and monitoring.
At the screening stage, an environmental permit application form must be submitted to the agency with supporting documentation. A project may be approved at this stage without the need for scoping and reviewing, skipping straight to monitoring. If the project is not initially approved then an assessment terms of reference may be required, which is reviewed at the scoping stage. If the terms of reference are approved then the assessment study itself is conducted. If the assessment is accepted at the reviewing stage, the agency will issue a construction environmental permit. The applicant must then commence construction of the project within one year. Appeals against rejection may be permitted.
The monitoring stage covers the implementation period of the project. At this stage, the agency monitors the construction of the project to ensure compliance with the permit conditions. Applicants may be required to modify their project. The agency also conducts a pre-commissioning audit. After reviewing this and the outcome of the monitoring stage, the agency agrees or refuses to issue an environmental operating permit with or without conditions. If a permit is issued, monitoring continues and at the end of the relevant validity period may be renewed.
The agency has issued a number of rules regarding consultants who may carry out environmental impact assessments. Consultants must hold a university degree and must have an established track record of executing projects, while the consultant company must include a number of environmental specialists. The agency is considering a number of consultant companies for licensing.
Other rules and procedures may also have to be adhered to in respect of particular types of projects. Generally, undertaking an assessment for the agency does not obviate the requirement to undertake further assessments by other bodies. It is important, therefore, for a company wishing to develop a project in Abu Dhabi to be aware of its obligations with regard to assessments and obtaining the necessary permits.
For further information on this topic please contact Peter Michelmore or Patrick Oufi at Al-Sayegh Richards Butler by telephone (+971 2 631 3010) or by fax (+971 2 631 2155) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]).