Long-awaited Ordinance and Decrees dated 26 January 2017 generalise and expand the environmental single permit regime as of 1st March 2017, following positive feedbacks on its experiment.

This important reform aims at reducing the administrative burden on industrial, real estate and energy project holders without reducing the level of environmental protection, thus making France a more attractive place to do business.

Common application for three kinds of projects

The environmental single permit will be applicable to:

  • projects subject to permits delivered under the legislation on industrial installations (“Installations Classées pour la Protection de l’Environnement, ICPE”)
  • projects subject to permits delivered under the French Water Act (“Loi sur l’eau”)
  • projects likely to contain measures to avoid, reduce or offset adverse effects on the environment, subject to environmental assessment but not to a permit

Water Act and industrial installations permitting procedures consequently disappear as such. The single permit can also include, as the case may be, Water Act and industrial installations registrations or declarations, nature reserves and classified sites special authorisations, fauna and flora derogations, Natura 2000 absence of objection, GMO and waste processing approvals, authorisation to operate an electricity-generating plant, greenhouse gas emission and clearing permits.

A streamlined procedure

Simplification. The application is submitted to a single contact: the prefect (“préfet”, local representative of the State). The procedure is reduced to three stages (review, public inquiry and decision) with slimmed-down formalities (some consultations are now optional), for a single permit including all applicable requirements. Complex projects can benefit from a system of permits granted in several tranches.

Speeding up. Examination of applications is reduced from 15 to 9 months, the application being likely to be refused at the review stage when, as it stands, the permit cannot be granted.

Predictability. The petitioner shall be informed upon request and can apply for a certificate that identifies the frameworks and procedures, specifies the content of the application and sets a timetable that commits the administration and secures projects.

Stabilisation. Appeal deadlines are reduced to 4 months for third parties and 2 months for the project holder. The permit can be regularised during the proceedings or only partially annulled by the judge.

Rules related to applications and permits

Content and conditions. Documents to be produced as well as examination, granting and implementation conditions of the single permit are specified. A template application form is yet to come.

Scope. The new system regulates not only the permitting process but also the post-permitting process (modification of industrial activity, control, sanction, litigation…). The pre-existing rules remain applicable if not modified by the new system.

Temporal applicability. Applications submitted before 1st March 2017 remain examined under the old system. For those submitted until 30 June 2017, projects holders are given the opportunity to choose between the old or new system.

Coordination with land-use authorisations

The environmental single permit does not include land-use authorisations. A land-use authorisation can be granted before an environmental permit, but will only be executed after the environmental permit is granted. No environmental permit can be granted if it appears incompatible with land use.

Renewables

To demonstrate its technical and financial capacities, from now on the petitioner will be able to put forward intended bank financing at the time of the application, as opposed to actual bank financing.

Concerning onshore wind energy, the environmental single permit includes land-use authorisations by way of exception, ancillary authorisations and in the event of non-implementation, may remain valid for up to 10 years under particular circumstances.

Further simplification will continue in 2017 with the possibility to conduct repowering operations on wind farms without the need to repeat the whole permit procedure (expected in June) and the amendment of the Regulatory Commission of Energy (CRE) tendering process in order to afford greater flexibility regarding the choice of photovoltaic panels suppliers (expected in September).