The Commission proposes to streamline legislation on environmental impact assessments

The European Commission presented a new proposal which is intended to lighten administrative burdens and make it easier to assess the potential impacts of major projects, without weakening existing environmental safeguards.

The new proposals presented by the European Commission for environmental impact assessments are intended to lighten administrative burdens. According to the Commission, current levels of environmental protection will be strengthened with these proposals, and businesses should enjoy a more harmonised regulatory framework. On 17 February 2012 it came into force that the European Commission as brought together all existing EU legislation governing environmental impact assessments in order to create a more compact, clearly translated and user-friendly version.

The proposed changes to the EIA Directive which entered into force 25 years ago, consist in adjusting the procedure that determines whether an environmental assessment is needed, strengthening rules to ensure better decision-making and avoid environmental damage, and streamlining the various stages of the EIA process, by introducing timeframes and a new mechanism to ease the process when several assessments are required and several authorities involved. These changes will bring more legal certainty and accelerate the process, without compromising the quality of the assessment, says the Commission.

Following a wide stakeholder consultation, the Commission decided the time has come for a comprehensive overhaul to the EIA Directive, adapting it to developments in policy and to legal and technical developments. The changes are also forward looking, and emerging challenges that are important to the EU as a whole in areas like resource efficiency, climate change, biodiversity and disaster prevention will now be reflected in the assessment process.