The European Commission has proposed to revise its environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. The EIA process is required by Council Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. Pursuant to this Directive, an environmental assessment is required for projects with significant environmental impacts. The purpose of an EIA is to reduce possible effects, while at the same time developing public information and consultation.
More than 25 years after the Council Directive's effective date and its subsequent amendments, Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik has proposed an important revision following consultations and studies on the effectiveness of existing rules, and after observing a disparity of implementation in Member States and a lack of consistency with other regulatory developments.
According to the Commission, this project aims at strengthening the rules(in particular the obligation of the project initiator to justify alternative proposals), requiring a more thorough examination by the authorities, streamlining the various stages of the process, and easing the process when several assessments are required and several authorities involved. Only projects with significant effects on the environment would be subject to the EIA. Under the proposal, projects that are adapted with a view to reduce impacts and small–scale projects with local impacts should be approved more swiftly and at lower cost.