The European Commission (EC) has proposed revisions to the European Union’s (EU’s) directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. The stated goal of the proposed revisions is to “ensure more consistency across the 27-country bloc.” According to the EC’s proposal, revisions to the legal text about screening projects would clarify that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) need to be done only “when it is clear that there are significant environmental impacts.” The proposal sets a deadline of three months for the screening of a project.
Whether a project would have “significant environmental impacts” would rest on “the nature, complexity, location and size of the proposed project and would be based on objective factors, such as the scale of the project, the use of valuable resources, the environmental sensitivity of the location, and the magnitude or irreversibility of the potential impact.” The proposal would also require authorities to publicly explain any decision not to carry out an EIA.
Other elements of the proposal include (i) identification of the main environmental issues of any EIA undertaken, (ii) an obligation to consider alternatives to projects, and (iii) an update of the directive to take into account EU Court of Justice rulings. The proposed revisions must be jointly approved by the European Parliament and EU Council. The EC has targeted March 2014 as the desired effective date.