Environmental Impact Assessment
What is it EIA?
Environmental impact assessment is considered to be one of main instruments of international environmental policy of sustainable development. In developed countries it has been implemented for more than three decades already.
It is based on following principles:
- complexity of the assessment of expected impacts of a given activity and a strategic document on the environment before the decision on their permission,
- impacts assessment is carried out by experts from various spheres,
- wide and active public participation in the assessment process,
- alternative solutions,
- assessment process does not replace the permission process of the given activity.
In the Slovak Republic the assessment has been carried out since 1994 when the Act No. 127/1994 Coll. of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on environmental impact assessment came into force. In order to provide for the full harmonisation of the Slovak legislation in the field of environmental impact assessment with the legislation of the European Union, the Act No. 391/2000 Coll. amending the Act No. 127/1994 Coll. of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on environmental impact assessment was adopted in 2000. This Act regulates in detail the process of impact assessment of constructions, installations and other activities on the environment. It simplifies substantially the impact assessment of draft principal development conceptions, territorial planning documentations and generally binding legal regulations (Strategic Impact Assessment - SEA).
At present the Act No. 24/2006 Coll. on environmental impact assessment and on amendments to certain acts applies, which entered into force on 1st February 2006. It regulates comprehensively the environmental impact assessment, strategic documents assessment and impact assessment of constructions, installations and other activities on the environment. The Decree No. 113/2006 Coll. of the Ministry of Environment, regulates the details of the professional qualification for the purposes of environmental impact assessment.
The requirement to adopt the Act No. 24/2006 Coll. on environmental impact assessment and on amendments to certain acts ensued from the fact that the European Union has adopted recently other directives concerning environmental impact assessment, namely:
- Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment
- Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council providing for public participation in respect of the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice
- Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on public assess to environmental information and the Slovak Republic as the Member State is obliged to harmonise the Slovak legislation with the above-mentioned directives.
Another reason for the development and adoption of the new Act in the field of environmental impact assessment was the fact that the Slovak Republic had signed in December 2003 the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment and we were obliged to create legislative conditions for its implementation.
And the last reason for the development and adoption of the new Act in the field of environmental impact assessment is creation of conditions for the accession of the Slovak Republic to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention). This obligation ensues also from the Decree of the Government of the Slovak Republic No. 637/2003.
The new Act takes into account, besides others, practical experience from the 10-year implementation of the Act of the National Council of the Slovak Republic No. 127/1994 Coll. as amended. The Act provides for the full harmonisation with EU legislation and with international conventions the Slovak Republic is bound by and intends to accede to within a short period of time. The adoption of the new Act on environmental impact assessment and its application is also a basic condition for projects financing from structural funds and the Cohesion fund.
- Environmental impact
- is any direct or indirect environmental impact, including the impact on human health, fauna, flora, biodiversity, soil, climate factors, air, water, landscape, natural localities, tangible property, cultural heritage and the interrelationship between the above factors.
- Environmental impact assessment
- is a comprehensive identification, description and evaluation of the likely environmental impact of a strategic document and a proposed activity, including the comparison with the existing state of the environment in the place of their performance and in the area of the likely effect, including the preparation of the environmental impact statement, the carrying out of consultations, the taking into account of the final record, the environmental impact statement and the results of consultations in case of decision-making and the provision of information about the decision.
- Strategic document
- according to the Act No. 24/2006 Coll. on environmental impact assessment and on amendments to certain acts is a proposal of a policy, a development conception, a plan and a programme, including strategic documents, which are co-financed by the European Union, as well as their modifications, which are subject to preparation and approval by an authority at the national, regional or local level, or those prepared for adoption through a legislative procedure by Parliament or Government, which are required by regulations and which are likely to have the impact on the environment, including the impact on the areas protected according to special provisions, except for documents of a legislative character.
Aim of assessment
- to ensure a high standard of environmental protection and to contribute to the integration of environmental aspects into the preparation and adoption of strategic documents, with a view of promoting sustainable development,
- to ascertain, describe and evaluate direct and indirect impacts of a strategic document and a proposed activity on the environment,
- to explain and compare the advantages and disadvantages of a proposed strategic document and a proposed activity, including their alternatives, and this also in comparison with the zero alternative,
- to define the measures that will prevent the environmental pollution, mitigate the environmental pollution or prevent a damage to the environment,
- to obtain an expert ground for the adoption of a strategic document and for the issue of a decision for the permission of the activity under special regulations.
Subject of assessment
The subject of assessment includes:
- the process of environmental impacts assessment of strategic documents,
- the process of environmental impacts assessment of constructions, installations and other activities,
- environmental impacts assessment of strategic documents and proposed activities in transboundary context,
- the competence of state administration authorities in the field of environmental impact assessment.
Assessment process participants
- competent authority
- an authority of the state administration governing the environmental impact assessment process, which is the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic, the Regional Environmental Office and the District Environmental Office,
- departmental authority
- a central authority of the state administration, to whose competence the proposed activity belongs; in case of the assessment of strategic documents of a nationwide effect it is the body, which submits the proposal of such strategic document for the negotiations of the Government of the Slovak Republic,
- a legal person or a natural person that provides for the elaboration of a strategic document,
- a legal person or a natural person intending to carry out an activity to be assessed according to this Act,
- approving authority
- a public administration body competent to approve a strategic document,
- permitting authority
- a state administration body competent to issue the permitting decision on the proposed activity under special regulations,
- affected authority
- a public administration body, whose binding judgment, approval, viewpoint or expression of opinion issued under special regulations, is the condition for the permission of a proposed activity,
- affected municipality
- a municipality, on whose cadastral area the activity is to be carried out and whose area will be affected by the activity,
- understood in the widest sense, including the public concerned (a civic initiative, a civic association, a non-governmental organisation),
- professionally qualified persons
- experts from various fields of science, technology and practice registered in the list of professionally qualified persons.
Environmental impact assessment process
According to the seriousness of possible negative environmental impacts, strategic documents and proposed activities have been divided into following two groups from the point of view of the assessment:
- 1.those which are subject to the compulsory assessment (Annex 1 and Annex 8 of the Act)
- 1.those which are subject to assessment on the basis of a competent authority's decision in the screening procedure.
In case of proposed activities, in reasoned cases also proposed activities not given in Annex 8 of the Act are subject to assessment if decided thus by the relevant nature and landscape protection authority. This relates mainly to proposed activities not reaching threshold values according to Annex 8 but situated in sensitive areas, which effects could cause substantial changes in biodiversity, structure and function of ecosystems.
- Submission of a preliminary environmental study in case of EIA and notification in case of SEA.
- Decision on the scope of the assessment and the time table.
- Development of the environmental impact statement EIA, SEA.
- Comment procedure and public hearing of the environmental impact statement.
- Development of the expert review.
- Development of the final record.
The screening procedure starts by the submission of the preliminary environmental study or the notification and ends by the issue of a decision, in which the competent authority decides whether the activity or the strategic document will be or will not be assessed. In case of the decision that the activity or the strategic document will not be assessed, the permission procedure follows under special regulations.
If it is decided that the activity will be assessed, the process continues as in obligatory assessment.
Individual steps of the assessment process are interconnected and all participants of the assessment process, including wide public, are involved in them from the initial phase.
Amendments in comparison with the Act No. 127/1994 Coll.
TRANSFER OF SOME COMPETENCIES TO REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICES AND DISTRICT ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICES
An important amendment in comparison with the Act No. 127/1994 Coll., according to which the state administration in the field of environmental impact assessment was provided for to the full extent by the Ministry of Environment, is a new division of the state administration among the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic, Regional Environmental Offices and District Environmental Offices.
SETTING OF DETAIL STEPS OF SEA
The Act regulates also strategic documents assessment from the subject point of view that means that it concerns the strategic documents, which can affect the environment and therefore they are subject to the assessment according to this Act. They include mainly conceptions given in Annex 1 of the Act from the field of energy, transport, agriculture, forest management, industry and others, strategic documents from the field of regional development and land use and strategic documents in which the need of assessment results from a special Act, e.g. the Act on nature and landscape protection. Other strategic documents not given in Annex 1 of the Act shall be assessed according to the Act only if decided thus by the competent authority in the screening procedure. Similarly as SEA Directive 2001/42/EC, neither the Act applies to strategic documents, the sole purpose of which is to serve national defence, civil emergency, financial or budget plans and programmes.
SHORTENING OF ASSESSMENT TERMS AND REGULATION OF CERTAIN LIMITS
On the basis of the ten-year experience with environmental impact assessment, some time limits for individual assessment stages were amended and set in such a way they allow a serious assessment without undue delay. The Act regulates also some time limits for the assessment of proposed activities given in Annex 8 (e.g. waste water treatment plants and sewerage networks, garages, parking lots and polyfunctional houses).
THE WHOLE ASSESSMENT PROCESS IS CARRIED OUT APPART FROM THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE
The whole assessment process is carried out apart from the administrative proceeding, except for the decision on doubts whether some costs are borne by the proponent or the procurer. All other decisions issued by the competent authority, are not issued according to the Act on administrative proceeding, and therefore they cannot be appealed from.
FINAL RECORD VALIDITY
Final record validity is limited to 3 years since its issue, however it is possible to extend it in 2 more years and this even repeatedly if it is proved that no substantial changes occurred in the proposed activity or in the affected territory.
WORK WITH THE PUBLIC
The Act defines the public in the widest sense of the word, including public concerned, in compliance with EU regulations and other international documents in this field. Public information is ensured through internet, media and through the affected municipality. Besides the general term "public" the Act defines also so called "public concerned" - three forms of public associations and regulates conditions of their origination and their position in the assessment process or in further proceeding. They include:
- civic initiative
- civic association
- non-governmental organisation supporting environmental protection
Documentation publishing and archiving
The documentation from the assessment process is made public in the electronic form at the internet site of MoE SR and at the Information Portal on Environment - Enviroportal and it is available for wide public. The complete documentation is archived at MoE SR and at the EIA Documentation Centre at the Slovak Environmental Agency in Banská Bystrica for 15 years since the completion of the assessment process.
New related regulations
The Decree No. 113/2006 Coll. of the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic was issued to the Act regulating details of the professional qualification for the purposes of the environmental impact assessment.
Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic
Department of Environmental Impact Assessment
Námestie Ľudovíta Štúra 1
812 35 Bratislava
Slovak Environmental Agency
Centre of Environmental Policy Development
Environmetal Care Department
975 90 Banská Bystrica
Telefón: +421 2 / 59 56 21 64
Fax: +421 2 / 59 56 25 31
Telefón: +421 48 / 437 41 63
Fax: +421 48 / 437 41 63