EIA Directive: EuP votes for revisions, but no mandatory EIA of shale gas projects

Source: European Environmenal Bureau (EEB)

Strasbourg, France — The vote in the European Parliament Plenary for revisions that, once adopted, would significantly strengthen the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), has been warmly welcomedby the European Environmenal Bureau (EEB). Regina Schneider, EEB Head of Enforcement, reacted: “This represents a small but important step forward for environmental protection in Europe. Despite having missed some opportunities for further improvements in the directive, the revisions approved by the Parliament will significantly strengthen the EIA regime and thereby contribute to more sustainable economic development.”

The EIA Directive is one of the major EU instruments on environment and health protection. An update to the directive was long overdue as despite enormous scientific and political progress there had been only minor changes during its 30 years of existence. Despite not being as ambitious as NGOs had called for, the adopted text includes many improvements which should help to overcome some of the shortcomings and loopholes in the current directive.

Vitally, while the NGOs’ demand to remove the threshold for mandatory EIA of shale gas projects was not taken up, other measures were introduced which would strengthen the assessment of shale gas projects. For instance, a developer would no longer be able to submit five small shale-gas projects in the same area (known as ‘salami slicing’) hoping to remain below the threshold and avoid an EIA. Their impacts will now be accumulated and assessed as one big project.

Other improvements include:

  • Independence of experts and avoidance of conflict of interest required.
  • Additional environmental factors such as biodiversity and climate change must be taken into account, as well as the impact on water, for example hydromorphological changes.
  • The text also seeks to ensure better information and participation of the public, which are crucial to improve the respect of EU environmental law in general.
  • Developers must show that they have considered all reasonable alternatives and justify their final decision
  • The conclusion that no EIA is required must be justified on the basis of an improved list of criteria (Annex III).

Source: European Environmenal Bureau (EEB)