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Screening in the framework of the EIA Directive: how to avoid a death by a thousand cuts? Hendrik Schoukens ELNI Conference EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive - challenges and perspectives in the light of the past experiences and the recent proposal for amendment 23 May 2013 Overview I. II. III. IV.

V. VI. Setting the stage Strict case-law of the EU Courts Lingering implementation issues (case study: Belgium Flemish Region) General lessons Proposal amending Directive 2011/92/EU Conclusions I. SETTING THE STAGE I. Setting the stage

Request for development consent Annex II Annex I screening EIAprocess final decision EIA no EIA

review proceedings? I. Setting the stage death by a thousand cuts screening is the part of the EIA process which determines whether an EIA is required for a particular project (annex IIprojects) death by a thousand cuts-phenomenon: many individually insignificant impacts escape a proper assessment despite their cumulative contribution to negative pressure on the environment (see also Opinion AG Sharpston, 22 November 2012, Sweetman) self-regulation: prompts the applicant to modify its project at

an early stage (in order to avoid significant impact) I. Setting the stage A lot of discretion? Projects of the classes listed in Annex II shall be made subject to an assessment, in accordance with Articles 5 to 10, where Member States consider that their characteristics so require. To this end Member States may inter alia specify certain types of projects as being subject to an assessment or may establish the criteria and/or thresholds necessary to determine which of the projects of the classes listed in Annex II are to be subject to an assessment in accordance with Articles 5 to 10.

I. Setting the stage Ambiguous response by Member States interpretation of the requirements differed between the MS not all Annex II projects needed to be covered (eg Germany) most MS have adopted some thresholds and/or criteria, yet the thresholds vary widely (implications for number EIAs) in some MS legally binding thresholds are used, in other MS indicative criteria to support a case-by-case system mini-assessments are used in order to further implement the screening-obligations

(Commission Report, 1997) I. Setting the stage Traffic light Approach Commission Report, 2003 Exclusion Thresholds and criteria Indicative Thresholds and criteria

Mandatory thresholds and criteria No EIA EIA Must Be Considered EIA is required II. STRICT CASE LAW

A II. Strict case law Limits of discretion f ir st wa rn ing ! The EIA Directive confers a measure of discretion on the MS

and does there prevent them from using other methods to specify the projects requiring an EIA under the Directive. () However, whatever method adopted by the MS to determine whether or not a specific project needs to be assessed, () the method adopted should not undermine the objective of the directive, which is that no project likely to have significant effects on the environment () should be exempt from assessment, unless the specific project excluded could, on the basis of a comprehensive screening, be regarded as not being likely to have such effects. (C-435/97, WWF) II. Strict case law

Du tch Ambiguous case-law? Dy ke ca se A MS would have no interest in fixing specifications, thresholds and criteria if, in any case, every project had to undergo an individual examination with respect to the criteria in

Article 2 (1) A MS which has established thresholds and/or criteria at a level such that, in practice all projects of a certain type would be exempted in advance from the requirement of an impact assessment exceeds the limits of that discretion, unless all the projects excluded could, when viewed as a whole, be regarded as not likely to have significant effects on the environment (C-72/95, Kraaijeveld) II. Strict case law Iri sh

ca se ! Criteria and thresholds Even a small-scale project can have significant effects of the environment if it is in a location where the environmental factors, such as fauna and flora, soil, water, climate or cultural heritage, are sensitive to the slightest alteration The purpose of the EIA Directive cannot be circumvented by the splitting of projects and the failure to take account of the cumulative effects of several projects must not mean in practice that they all escape the obligation to carry out an

environmental impact assessment (C-392/96, Commission v Ireland) II. Strict case law Absurd situation? II. Strict case law Modified Traffic Light approach thresholds + case by case-assessment Indicative or Guidance Thresholds and Criteria

Mandatory thresholds and criteria EIA must be considered EIA is required II. Strict case-law Directive 97/11EC does not give clear guidance either? Art. 4 (3): When a case-by-case examination is carried

out or thresholds or criteria are set for the purposes of paragraph 2, the relevant screening criteria set out in Annex III shall be taken into account Annex III contains the screening criteria nature of the project eg size, use or natural resources etc project locational factors eg near a protected area features of the potential impact eg extent of the impact III. Implementation issues Ju sti fic

ati on ! Screening decisions a decision by which the CA takes the view that no EIA is required must contain or be accompanied by all information that makes it possible to check that it is based on adequate screening () (C-87/02, Comm. v Italy) Article 4 of the EIA-Directive must be interpreted as not requiring that a determination that no EIA is required should in itself contain the reasons for the CAs decision that the latter was unnecessary. However, if an interested party so requests,

is obliged to communicate to him the reasons for the determination or the relevant information and documents (C-75/08, Mellor) III. LINGERING IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES III. Implementation issues Some good practices, yet lasting ambiguity following the adoption of 97/11/EC, and the application of the rulings of the ECJ, many Member States kept on

using absolute exclusion thresholds for Annex IIprojects eigth recital to Directive 97/11/EC whereas MS should not be required to examine projects below those thresholds or outside those criteria on a case by case basis III. Implementation issues Bad track record C-133/94: Art. 4 (2) does not empower the MS to exclude generally and definitively from possible assessment one or two classes mentioned in Annex II

C- 319/01: the Belgian Government's explanations relating to the complex nature of the matter and the practical difficulties encountered during the stage of drafting the provisions necessary for the implementation of Directive 97/11 cannot be accepted III. Implementation issues The limited effet utile of Art. 4 (2) EIA Decree in 2002 - EIA Regulation in 2004 Annex II to the EIA-regulation: thresholds and criteria for many projects (eg industrial estates screening only from 50 ha) implicitly took into account the criteria mentioned in annex

III to the EIA Directive (size, location, characteristics of the effects) limit the administrative burden national case-law accepted the reasoning of the Flem. Government (Council of State, 19 September 2009, no 195.995) <> case-law of the ECJ III. Implementation issues An accident waiting to happen? ECJ convicted Ireland (C-66/06) and the Netherlands (C- 255/08) for basing its thresholds solely on the criterion of the project-size infringement proceedings against Belgium: Flemish rules

were in violation of Art. 4 (2) and (3) of the EIA-Directive (C435/09) interpretation of Art. 4 (2) would make the reliance on thresholds impossible? (Kraaijeveld) fairly low thresholds? (death by a thousand cuts) environmental permitting scheme for projects under the thresholds? (no assessments of alternatives) III. Implementation issues Pragmatic approach a shift in the national case-law: Council of State, 14 March 2012, no 218.458: planning permits

annulled! temporary solution: CA can no longer make application of the illegal thresholds (Circular September 2011) minimalistic approach (permit-level) III. Implementation issues or formalistic approach? Simplified screening procedure (2013 onwards) new Annex III without thresholds (<> Annex II more extensive screening by central EIA authority) developers need to provide with a environmental information assessing the possible effects of the project

local CA takes a formal screening decision when checking the completeness of the application for a development consent or permit (<> consultation?) if EIA necessary, new application <> no EIA necessary, consent proceedings can proceed IV. LESSONS LEARNED? IV. Lessons learned? Good news? numbers are increasing (2005-2008): 27.400 til 33.800 screenings + 10% positive screening decisions

at least in some MS the combined application of several approaches has lead to a refined screening function (eg Sweden) a majority of the new MS employ a combination of thresholds and ad hoc-screening (Latvia, Poland and Czech Republic, COWI-report, 2009) the usefulness of the screening mechanisms is confirmed by the results of the public consultation on the review of the EIA-Directive (2010 75%) unsystematic screening is no longer one of the major problems in the application of the EIA Directive (?) IV. Lessons learned? Lasting concerns... failures as to the screening process requirements constitute the most

significant and recurring problem (69% of infringement cases; 80 % of all EU Court-cases) still a lot of differences in the numbers EIAs carried out in each MS (10 <> 4.000 a year): level playing field? paradox: in some MS an excessive number of EIAs is carried out <> other MS only very few smaller projects are screened (legitimacyproblems) (Report Commission on the application and the effectiveness of the EIA-Directive, 2009 and Impact Assessment, COM (2012), 628 final) IV. Lessons learned? Results of the public consultation screening (2010) A clear need for clarifying and streamlining the screening mechanism

common minimum EU thresholds for Annex II projects (52%) maximum time frame for screening decision (69%) negative screening decisions to contain reasons (62%) consultation of environmental authorites before screening decisions (52%) V. THE COMMISSIONS PROPOSAL V. The ECs Proposal I. Information requested from developers Art. 4 (3): for projects listed in Annex II, the developer

shall provide information on the characteristics of the project, its potential on the environment and the measures envisaged in order to avoid and reduce significant effects Annex II.A: a description of the project, the aspects of the environment to be affected, the likely effects resulting from it and, possible, mitigating measures V. The ECs Proposal II. Specification of the Annex III-criteria amendment of Annex III: clarify existing criteria (eg

cumulative effects) and include additional ones (new environmental issues) Art. 12a: The Commission shall be empowered to adopt delegated acts, (), concerning the selection criteria listed in Annex III and the information referred to in Annexes II.A and IV, in order to adapt them to scientific and technical progress (EU thresholds?) V. The ECs Proposal III. The content of the screening decision Art. 4 (5): The CA shall make its decision pursuant to par. 2, on the basis of the information provided by the

developer and taking into account, where relevant, the results of studies () arising from other Union legislation. The decision pursuant to par. 2 shall: (a) state how the criteria in Annex III have been taken into account; (b) include the reasons for requiring or not requiring an EIA (c) include a description of mitigating measures, if no EIA is needed (d) be made available to the public V. The ECs Proposal IV. Time frame Art. 4 (6): The CA shall make its decision make its decision pursuant to par. 2 within three months from the

request for development consent and provided that the developer has submitted all the requested information. V. The ECs Proposal First appraisal: a good step forwards? Pros Cons More guidance by modifying the Too broad discretion and no criteria of annex III + delegated clear vision on the use of acts are possible

thresholds <> minimum thresholds via delegated acts? Harmonisation of the screening process (codification of existing simplified procedure) Subsidiarity (intervention in permit proceedings?) Clarification of the content of the No clear provisions on screening decision consultation and the review of screening decisions Not give up on the smaller

effects on the environment Penalize more the SMEs (?) VI. CONCLUSIONS AND OUTLOOK VI. Conclusions and outlook Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux screening : cumbersome balance between - death by a thousand cuts (scope of EIA wide enough) - administrative burden (scope of

EIA not too wide) effective screening: difficult but still a fundamental challenge in order to ensure sustainability in the EU

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