Assessment of the effects of projects on the environment (EIA)
Directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment
Known as the EIA Directive, the directive aims to ensure:
a high level of environmental protection;
environmental considerations are integrated into the preparation and authorisation of projects.
This objective is achieved by ensuring that environmental assessment of certain public and private projects listed in the directive’s Annexes I and II (airports, nuclear installations, railways, roads, waste disposal installations, waste water treatment plants, etc.) is carried out.
The EIA Directive applies to a wide range of public and private projects.
Directive 2011/92/EU defines the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process which ensures that projects likely to have significant effects on the environment are made subject to an assessment, prior to their authorisation.
Amending legislation (Directive 2014/52/EU) was adopted in 2014. In line with the drive for smarter regulation, it:
helps reduce administrative burden;
improves the level of environmental protection to permit sounder, more predictable and sustainable business decisions on public and private investments;
takes into account threats and challenges that have emerged since the original rules came into force 30 years ago. This means paying more attention to aspects like resource efficiency, climate change and disaster prevention, which are now better reflected in the assessment process.
The main amendments are:
EU countries can simplify their different environmental assessment procedures.
Timeframes are introduced for the different stages of environmental assessments.
The screening procedure, determining whether an EIA is required, is simplified.
Decisions must be duly motivated in the light of the updated screening criteria.
EIA reports are to be made more understandable for the public, especially as regards assessments of the current state of the environment and alternatives to the project in question.
The quality and the content of the reports is improved. Competent authorities also need to prove their objectivity to avoid conflicts of interest.
The grounds for development consent decisions* must be clear and more transparent for the public.
If projects do entail significant adverse effects on the environment, developers are obliged to avoid, prevent or reduce those effects. These projects must be monitored.
The EIA process
The EIA process operates as follows:
the project developer may request the competent authority to specify what should be covered by the EIA information to be provided (scoping stage);
the developer must provide information on the environmental impact (in the form of an EIA report drafted in accordance with Annex IV of the directive);
the environmental authorities and the public, as well as local and regional authorities (as well as any EU countries that are affected) must be informed and consulted;
the competent authority decides taking into consideration the results of consultations; this decision also includes a reasoned conclusion on the significant effects of the project;
the authority informs the public of its decision;
the public can challenge the decision before the courts.
Consultation with the public is a key feature of EIA process. To ensure effective public participation, the EIA report and other information must be provided as early as possible. This can be done electronically, by public notices or bill posting, or via local newspapers.
Responsibility of national authorities
Authorities have to decide within a reasonable time whether to approve the project or not. They must make available to the public, as well as to environmental, local and regional bodies, the content of a positive decision, including the main reasons for their approval and any environmental or other conditions they attach. If they refuse development consent, they should explain why.
EU countries may lay down more stringent conditions and fix penalties for any infringements.
Application & Background
Directive 2011/92/EU has applied since 17 February 2012. It codifies 4 earlier directives (85/337/EEC, 97/11/EC, 2003/35/EC and 2009/31/EC) the first of which became law in the EU countries on 3 July 1988.
Amending Directive 2014/52/EU has applied since 25 April 2014 and had to become law in the EU countries by 16 May 2017.
For more information, see:
Environmental Impact Assessment — EIA (European Commission).
Development consent decision: a decision by the competent authorities to approve a project.
Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (codification) (OJ L 26, 28.1.2012, pp. 1-21)
Successive amendments to Directive 2011/92/EU have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.