Questions

These are example answers to some of the key questions at the end of each chapter.

Chapter 1

Q2. Some steps in the EIA process have proved to be more difficult to implement than others. From your initial reading, identify which these might be and consider why they might have proved to be problematic.

  • Answers to this question can vary from country to country, as you will see especially in the examples of international practice in Chapter 10. However there are some common, longstanding and difficult steps.
  • For example , although in the EU there are also considerable variations, reviews over time have highlighted some continuing problems which are common to many of the Member States, including :
    • the limited practice of mandatory monitoring, and associated auditing;
    • variable and partial approaches to participation in the EIA process;
    • very limited consideration of alternatives;
    • over-comprehensive approaches to scoping EIA content (and resulting over-voluminous EISs);
    • failure to include some key elements, such as climate change issues;
    • weak (tiering) linkages between EIA and SEA studies.


Q8. What do you understand by a multi-dimensional approach to the environment, in EIA?

  • Pioneering, and much of contemporary, EIA practice, has focused on the impacts of development actions on the bio-physical environment. This was a deliberate response to a concern about the lack of consideration of such impacts of development.
  • Yet, decision makers are often faced with the dilemma of assessing the wide mix of impacts on both the bio-physical and socio-economic environment and the interactions between the two. Impacts on air and water quality can, for example, have major impacts on human health.
  • Socio-economic impacts have been the 'poor relation' in EIA, but this is slowly changing with more recent practice giving much more attention to 'people impacts'. There are considerable merits in adopting an integrated approach to EIA – one which includes both the bio-physical and socio-economic.
  • However, partly reflecting the growing significance of socio-economic considerations, there has also been an increasing practice of a more semi-detached Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SIA) activity. A further proliferation has included the major growth area of Health Impact Assessment (HIA), and Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA).
  • Finally, it should also be noted that the consideration of the environmental dimensions does vary between countries, with relatively more focus on the socio-economic dimensions in developing countries.


Q13. What are the main differences between EIA and SEA?

Table 11.1 (Chapter 11) provides a succinct summary of the main differences ---

 

 

SEA

 

EIA

Nature of the action

Strategy, visions, plans

Construction / operation actions

Scale of impacts

Macro: global, national, regional

Micro: local, site

Timescale

Long to medium term

Medium to short term

Data

Mainly descriptive but mixed with quantifiable / mappable

Mainly quantifiable / mappable

Alternatives

Fiscal measures, economic, social or physical strategies, technologies, spatial balance of location

Specific alternative locations, design, timing

Assessment benchmarks

Sustainability criteria and objectives

Legal restrictions and best practice

Rigour/ uncertainty

Less rigour, more uncertainty

More rigour, less uncertainty

Outputs

Broad brush

Detailed

 Source: Based on Partidario (2003)

Chapter 2

Q5. Is there any clear pattern to the spread of EIA across countries and continents?

  • From the origins in the USA, EIA first spread in the 1970s to a number of more developed countries, including Canada, Australia, West Germany and France.
  • The EC Directive 85/337 was the major driver behind the spread in Western Europe in the 1980s/1990s.
  • The break-up of the Soviet Union, and the later widening of EU membership, led to further spread in Central and Eastern Europe and parts of Asia.
  • Progress in South America, some parts of Asia, and especially Africa, has been slower. However, the requirements of major donor agencies, such as the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, have been significant in spreading EIA practice to some countries in these continents.
  • As always there are exceptions to the general rule. See Chapter 10 for some examples of emerging good practice across most continents.


Q7. What were the key drivers behind the introduction of the EC EIA Directive 85/337?

  • Concern about the state of the physical environment, and the importance of preventing further environmental deterioration were key drivers. The EC's First Action Programme on the Environment of 1973 (CEC 1973) advocated the prevention of environmental harm.
  • The EC was also concerned to ensure that no distortion of competition should arise through which one Member State could gain unfair advantage by permitting developments that, for environmental reasons, might be refused by another. In other words, it considered environmental policies necessary for the maintenance of a level economic playing field. This was another (the?) key driver.
  • Further motivation for EC action included a desire to encourage best practice across Member States.
  • In addition, pollution problems transcend territorial boundaries (witness acid rain and river pollution in Europe), and the EC saw potential to contribute to at least a sub-continental response framework.


Q12. What is the Aarhus Convention, and what are its implications for the EIA Directive?

The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, usually known as the Aarhus Convention (as it was signed in that Danish city) came into force in 2001. It grants the public rights regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice, in governmental decision-making processes on matters concerning the local, national and transboundary environment. It focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities.

  • The main changes introduced by Directive 2003/35/EC (the second main amendment to the EU EIA Directive), as a result of the Aarhus Convention, included:
  • the definition of the 'public' and 'the public concerned' (new Article 1 (2));
  • the strengthening of public consultation provision: to be early in the decision-making procedure, a detailed list of information to be provided, reasonable time frames to be used (new Articles 6 (2) and (3));
  • new provisions on public access to a review procedure (Article 10 (a)); and
  • information on the public participation process within the information to be provided on the final decision (Article 9 (1)).

Chapter 3

Q3. What is the role of statutory consultees in the EIA process?

  • Statutory consultees are an important group in the EIA process. The local planning authority (LPA) must consult such bodies before making a decision on a major project requiring an EIA. Statutory consultees in England include Natural England (NE), the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) (primarily in relation to projects with potential marine impacts), the Environment Agency (for certain developments), and the principal local council for the area in which the project is proposed. Other consultees often involved include the local highway authority and the county archaeologist.
  • These bodies are involved at two stages of an EIA, in addition to possible involvement in the scoping stage. First, when an LPA determines that an EIA is required, it must inform the statutory consultees of this. The consultees in turn must make available to the developer, if so requested and at a reasonable charge, any relevant environmental information in their possession. For example, Natural England might provide information about the ecology of the area.
  • Second, once the EIS has been submitted, the LPA or developer must send a free copy to each of the statutory consultees. The consultees may make representations about the EIS to the LPA for at least two weeks after they receive the EIS. The LPA must take account of these representations when deciding whether to grant planning permission. The government guidance explains that these bodies may have particular expertise in the subject or may highlight important environmental issues that could affect the project.


Q5. Outline some of the changes introduced in the T&CP (EIA) Regulations for England (2011). What were the key drivers behind the changes?

  • A key driver for change has been a number of issues with the screening criteria in EIA, giving rise to several celebrated legal cases (many of which are covered in Section 8.6, Chapter 8). These include, for instance, cases about dealing with extensions to projects, multi-stage consents, and the extent to which proposed project mitigation measures can be taken into account in screening decisions. The 2011 Regulations have responded on many of the legal issues raised.
  • Schedule 2.13 has been amended so that the thresholds in Schedule 2 apply to the development as a whole once changed or extended, and not just to the change or extension.
  • The 2011 Regulations also include amendments in relation to a European Court of Justice (ECJ) preliminary ruling on screening decisions, known as the Mellor case, which now requires reasons for a negative EIA screening decision to be made available on request.
  • Further to another ECJ ruling on multi-stage consents, the 2011 Regulations provide for the limitation, to the requirement for subsequent applications to be subject to screening, to those cases where the development is likely to have significant effects on the environment, which were not identified at the time the initial planning permission was granted.
  • A recent interesting issue (2011) concerns a widening of screening actions to more cases of project demolition/decommissioning.
  • In addition, new categories for carbon capture and storage (CCS) have been included in both Schedules. It is important to keep the regulations up-to-date with regard to emerging new project types.
  • The 2011 Regulations also include the simplification of the thresholds from the more comprehensive applicable and indicative thresholds and criteria introduced under the 1999 Regulations, to applicable thresholds and criteria only. This was partly a response to a concern that key stakeholders were overusing the guidance provided by indicative thresholds.

Chapter 4

Q2. Table 4.2 shows that the number of EISs prepared in different European Member States varies widely. What issues associated with the screening process might account for these differences?

  • The date when the EC Directive and amendments were implemented into national law (the 1997 amendments widened the area of application of the Directive, so later implementation would, all other factors being equal, reduce the number of EISs prepared).
  • The physical size and the population of the Member State, though this is not at all consistent (see Table 4.2).
  • The proportion of sensitive sites in the Member State (e.g. for instance more than 25 per cent of Cyprus and the Slovak Republic had been designated as Special Protection Area by 2010, compared with only 3 per cent in Ireland and 6 per cent in Denmark).
  • The Annex II screening thresholds set by the Member State, or interpretations made (based in part on previous similar screening cases) if a case-by-case approach to screening is used.


Q3. Should all EISs consider the 'no action' alternative; different locations; different scales; different processes; different designs? Why or why not?

  • No. For instance it may not be appropriate for a developer to consider different locations for a project if the developer only owns one piece of land; different scales may not be relevant if the project comes in only given increments of size (e.g. a bridge from A to B, a nuclear power station); different processes will probably not be relevant for projects whose main impacts come from their existence rather than how they are operated (e.g. housing, office buildings); different designs may not matter if the project is far from where people can see it (e.g. offshore installations), or for modifications to projects where the modification is not visible from outside the project perimeter.
  • The 'no action' alternative will be relevant for most projects.

Chapter 5

Q2. Assess the case for using expert judgement as a key prediction method in EIA.

  • The use of 'expert judgement' is sometimes regarded as an inferior or superficial predictive method in EIA; yet all predictive methods make some use of expert judgement.
  • Experts can have a lot to offer in the EIA process; their expertise may relate, for example, to particular types of impacts, types of projects, and to the requirements of the EIA process (e.g. meeting the regulations, seeking effective public participation). Such expertise can be built up over time with work on a range of EIA activity.
  • Expert judgement can be used in tandem with other predictive methods, such as cause–effect networks and flow charts. Expert judgement can also draw on analogue models – making predictions based on analogous situations. They include comparing the impacts of a proposed development with a similar existing development; comparing the environmental conditions at one site with those at similar sites elsewhere; comparing an unknown environmental impact (e.g. of wind turbines on radio reception) with a known environmental impact (e.g. of other forms of development on radio reception). The Internet provides a wealth of information on potential comparative projects.
  • Expert judgement can be used in many ways: for example, a single expert may give an initial brief, qualitative opinion at an early stage in the scoping stage of the EIA process. S/he may seek the opinions of other experts for specific predictive impact studies, and aim for a common opinion, underpinned with supporting evidence.
  • Expert knowledge can also provide the basis for expert systems, which seek to translate such knowledge into systematic routines/procedures/models for various steps in the EIA process, including prediction, evaluation, review etc. (See: Rodriguez-Bachiller, A. with J. Glasson (2004). Expert Systems and Geographical Information Systems for Environmental Impact Assessment. London: Taylor and Francis).


Q4. How can uncertainty in the prediction of impacts be handled in EIA? Consider the merits of different approaches.

  • All predictions have an element of uncertainty, and this should be acknowledged in the EIA process. Unfortunately, uncertainty is sometimes not acknowledged enough, as it is feared that some stakeholders may regard it as assign of weakness in the EIA work.
  • There are many sources of uncer¬tainty relevant to the EIA process, for example related to the nature of the project and the host environment, to values and related decisions. Sources of uncertainty may include the use of inaccurate and/or partial information on the project and on baseline-environmental conditions, unanticipated changes over the project life cycle, and oversimplification and errors in the application of methods and models. Socio-economic conditions may be particularly difficult to predict, as underlying societal values may change quite dramatically over the life of a project.
  • Uncertainty in EIA predictive exercises can be handled in several ways, including:
    • clearly setting out the assumptions underpinning predictions;
    • use of probability and confidence estimates;
    • building ranges into predictions; and
    • use of sensitivity analysis to assess consistency of relationships between variables.
  • Whilst such approaches are strongly recommended, they are not without issues —
    including dangers of mathematical complexity of probability models for stakeholders,
    and increasing complexity of predictions when several scenarios, or ranges are used.
     
  • The monitoring of outcomes of similar projects may provide useful information for the project in hand. Holling (1978) who believes that the "core issue of EIA is how to cope with decision-making under uncertainty", recommends a policy of adaptive EIA, with periodic reviews of the EIA through a project's life cycle.
  • Another useful procedural approach is to require an uncertainty report as one step in the process; such a report would bring together the various sources of uncertainty associated with a project and the means by which they might be reduced (uncertainties are rarely eliminated).


Q7. The enhancement of beneficial impacts has had a low profile in EIA until recently. Why do you think this has been so, and why is the situation now changing?

  • Possible reasons for the low profile of the enhancement of beneficial impacts may include: government and developer concern about the potential cost implications; views that they are already covered, at least in part, in other planning procedures (e.g. planning gain/obligations procedures); weak public participation practices which constrain opportunities to raise such issues; dominance of focus on bio-physical impacts (enhancement often relates to socio-economic impacts); and difficulties in getting agreement on possible enhancement measures.
  • Similarly, possible reasons for the increasing profile may include, for example: improving participation practices; more concern about socio-economic impacts; and the establishment of precedents in the development of such measures. The wind farm industry in some parts of the world (e.g. Scotland in the UK) has been an important pioneer. There is also an increasing focus on the use of Community Benefits Agreements/Community Impacts Agreements to bring together packages of enhancement measures for locally impacted communities.

Chapter 6

Q1. Public participation and public consultation are often used synonymously. What is the difference between them?

See Footnote 1: Consultation is in essence an exercise concerning a passive audience: views are solicited, but respondents have little active influence over any resulting decisions. In contrast, public participation involves an active role for the public, with some influence over any modifications to the project and over the ultimate decision.


Q3. The introductory section to the EIA Directive refers to public participation as 'Whereas development consent for public and private projects...should be granted only after prior assessment…; whereas this assessment must be conducted on the basis of the appropriate information supplied by the developer, which may be supplemented by the authorities and by the people who may be concerned by the project in question.' How might it be rephrased to promote a higher level of public participation in EIA?

'Whereas development consent for public and private projects…should be granted only after prior assessment by the developer including consultation with local residents; whereas this assessment must be conducted on the basis of the appropriate information supplied by the developer, which may be supplemented by the authorities and by the people who may be concerned by the project in question; whereas the assessment should demonstrate that the developer has taken full account of the views of local residents in the project planning process; whereas the assessment process should include regular meetings with members of the local community.'


Q4. Section 6.2.3 lists the UK procedural requirements for public participation. Do they match the level of participation set out in the introductory section to the EIA Directive (see Q3 above)?

  • In the UK, notices must be published in a local newspaper and posted at a proposed site at least seven days before the submission of the development application and EIS. These notices must describe the proposed development, state that a copy of the EIS is available for public inspection with other documents relating to the development application, give an address where copies of the EIS may be obtained and the charge for the EIS, and state that written representations on the application may be made to the competent authority for at least 21 days after the notice is published. When a charge is made for an EIS, it must be reasonable, taking into account printing and distribution costs.
  • Although these requirements are very limited, they match the (equally limited) level of participation set out in the EIA Directive.

Chapter 7

Q2. Why is it important to continue the EIA process beyond the decision for those projects which proceed to implementation?

  • It is very important to monitor whether projects are implemented in the ways that have been agreed in relation to the EIA and other planning procedures. This is likely to include various mitigation and enhancement measures, which may relate to several stages of the project life cycle (including: construction, operation, decommissioning). Without such post-decision measures, there is a real danger that some of the good work of the EIA process may be wasted.
  • Such monitoring also allows us to audit EIA procedures as we learn from experience. For example, how accurate were the prediction methods? This can be particularly useful where a developer has a programme of projects and can spread good practice to subsequent projects.
  • Chapter 12 draws attention to the very important role of Environmental Management Plans (EMPs). The aim of such plans is to ensure that the effort put into the EIA process pre-application and consent is effectively delivered post-consent. An EMP is a document that: sets out the actions that are needed to manage environmental and community risks associated with the life cycle of a development, identifies what is needed, when, and who is responsible for its delivery.


Q7. Review the problems which can be associated with post-auditing studies, as set out in Table 7.3, and consider how some of these problems might be overcome.

  • Possible elements in overcoming some of the auditing problems noted in Table 7.3 include:
  • build in more testable, precise, and quantifiable predictions wherever possible into the EIS;
  • focus on a limited range of key impacts, rather than 'all and sundry';
  • identify those key impacts, and explicit criteria for their monitoring, as early as possible in the EIA process; both impacts and criteria should be agreed between key stakeholders;
  • consider both socio-economic and bio-physical impacts, and for all relevant stages of the project life cycle;
  • seek to identify the underlying causes of predictive errors (e.g. poor information on the nature of a new type of project; dated information on some characteristics of the local area baseline; lack of local knowledge input; failure to adequately allow for uncertainty); and
  • publish auditing results, and spread good practice.

Chapter 8

Q1. Reviewing the nature of UK EIS activity displayed in Figures 8.1 and 8.2, how might you explain the changing patterns of activity?

  • Times of economic growth vs. recession (more projects during times of economic growth).
  • Government promotion of certain types of projects (e.g. energy infrastructure), including differences in promotion by the devolved administrations.
  • Funding cycles and subsidies beginning/ending (e.g. five-year Local Transport Plans which trigger funding for transport projects, changes in rules for European Common Agricultural Policy subsidies).


Q5. Given the information from Section 8.4.3 about determinants of EIS quality, if you were managing an EIA process for the first time, how would you try to optimize the quality of the resulting EIS?

  • Employ experienced consultants to carry out the EIA (or at least to act as a 'critical friend') to the EIA team.
  • Read relevant EIA guidance and follow it.
  • Provide adequate resources for the EIA. Section 4.2.3 notes that typical EIAs cost between 0.1 per cent and 1 per cent of the project cost.
  • Assign a senior person on the project management team to be in charge of the EIA process, to ensure that EIA information is fully considered in project planning.
  • Ensure that a high-quality non-technical summary of the EIS is prepared.
    Also (not from Section 8.4.3) start the EIA process early in the project planning process; have regular meetings or in some other way ensure that different members of the EIA team and the developer are working in a coordinated manner; be open-minded about the EIA results, and expect to change the project if necessary in response to the results.


Q6. Using the third runway at Heathrow (Box 8.1) as an example, what do you think are the negotiable and non-negotiable impacts of an airport (Table 8.7)?

  • Non-negotiable: protection of travellers from terrorism, maintenance of legal environmental standards.
  • Negotiable: Political acceptability, economic competitiveness/growth of London, adequate international air links, adequate airport capacity/no hassle, modern facilities, loss of homes.

Chapter 9

Q1. The assessment of incremental and cumulative effects is revealed to be a weak area in a number of the case studies (Section 9.2 and 9.6). Why is assessment of these impacts often problematic in project-level EIA and what solutions might you suggest to remedy the problem?

Problems include:

  • The existence of separate consent procedures and responsibilities for different project components, including associated development arising from the main project (such as the electricity transmission lines needed for an energy generation project). In these circumstances, it is typical for separate EIAs to be carried out for each consent application by different developers, with no assessment of the full implications of all project components in a single integrated EIA.
  • 'Salami-slicing' of a project, by breaking down a large development project into smaller more manageable schemes for the purpose of consenting and EIA. This is common practice, for example, with many road schemes. Cumulative effects may be poorly assessed by project-level EIA in such cases.
  • Assessment of cumulative impacts arising from the interaction between a proposed development and other developments in the vicinity has been hampered by a number of factors. These include uncertainty over which other projects should be included, the geographic and temporal scope of the assessment, and who should be responsible for undertaking and funding the assessment work.
  • Government guidance on project-level EIA has to date adopted a limited definition of the other projects which should be considered when assessing potential cumulative impacts, i.e. only those projects which have already gained development consent. This has resulted in limited consideration of impacts arising for example from other proposals already submitted but not yet consented or developments at the pre-application stage.
  • Solutions to remedy these problems could include:
  • Revisions to EIA regulations and/or guidance to require the consideration of the impacts of any necessary associated development, such as new transmission lines required to connect energy generation projects to the electricity grid.
  • Revisions to guidance to include consideration of interactions with a wider range of likely future developments, including projects in the planning stage but not yet consented. This wider definition has already been adopted in guidance issued by the UK Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).
  • Release of further best practice guidance on the assessment of cumulative effects. For example, IEMA plans to issue guidance setting out principles for assessing cumulative effects in EIA practice in late 2011.


Q2. What factors accounted for the more successful treatment of cumulative effects in the Humber Estuary case study in Section 9.5?

Relevant factors included:

  • The various schemes were located in close proximity and covered a relatively small geographic area.
  • All of the schemes were at an early stage of the planning process at the start of the CEA study.
  • The developers involved in the various schemes agreed to collaborate in undertaking a single cumulative effects assessment and to share the costs of such work. A lead role in initiating the CEA study was taken by one of the developers.
  • The developers were not competing with each other to be the first to gain development consent, and a collaborative approach was therefore easier to achieve

Chapter 10

Q3. Figure 10.2 suggests that more developed countries tend to have stronger EIA systems than less developed countries. However the EIA systems of Benin, Peru, China and Poland each have strong or innovative aspects that go beyond the UK or US systems. What are these aspects, and why might they have been instituted?

  • Benin: Use of the radio and NGOs to publicise EIA information; review of EIS quality by the Benin Environmental Agency, with a certificate of environmental conformity required before project construction may begin.
  • Peru: A coherent approach to environmental assessment of projects, programmes, plans and projects; developers are required to prepare and implement a plan for citizen participation; EIA requirements increase as the project's impacts increase; the competent authority must review the EIS quality and a certificate of EIS is needed before project construction may begin; monitoring and implementation of an environmental management plan are required.
  • China: EIA requirements increase as the project's impacts increase; EIAs may only be carried out by licensed EIA experts; the EIS must include a cost-benefit analysis of the environmental impacts.
  • Poland: Integration of the requirements of the Habitats Directive with the EIA requirements; requirement for the EIA to analyse the option favoured by the applicant, a rational alternative option and the most advantageous option for the environment; preparation of an 'environmental information card' as the basis for the EIA screening stage; bilateral agreements with other countries on applying EIA in a transboundary context.
  • These aspects may have been instituted in response to perceived strengths and weaknesses of other EIA systems; to deal with particular problems (for instance low indigenous EIA experience, or low literacy levels); or because pilot EIA projects (typically supported by aid agencies or banks) included these components and they were found to be effective.


Q6. Peru's system can be criticised for having a 'poacher-gamekeeper' approach, where the ministry in charge of promoting certain projects is also responsible for the EIA process for those projects. Why is the term 'poacher-gamekeeper' used for such a scenario? Are there any other examples of 'poacher-gamekeeper' in this chapter?

  • A poacher steals or illegally game (e.g. deer). A gamekeeper protects game from poaching. So a gamekeeper who is also a poacher has a conflict of interest. There is also a conflict of interest in a government ministry being responsible for (1) building infrastructure and (2) rigorously assessing the impacts of this infrastructure and making objective decisions about the infrastructure on the basis of information about its impacts.
  • There may be a conflict of interest in China, where environmental protection bureaus (who are the competent authorities for EIA) are funded by authorities who are keen to promote economic development.
  • In federal systems such as Canada's, individual provinces may face a conflict of interest in determining which projects their EIA systems should apply to and how stringent their EIA requirements should be. The more overarching and rigorous the province's EIA requirements are, the more developers may avoid developing in that province. This was the case with European countries before the EIA Directive set a 'level playing field' of environmental requirements.

Chapter 11

Q2. One argument put forward for needing SEA is that EIAs do not adequately address cumulative impacts. Of the three SEA systems described in Sec. 11.3, do any clearly consider cumulative impacts?

  • Annex I of the European SEA Directive requires environmental reports to include an analysis of cumulative and synergistic impacts.
  • SEAs for 'Type B' plans in China must assess cumulative impacts and carrying capacities.
  • The US system's focus on 'maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity', and on greenhouse gas emissions means that cumulative impacts are at least indirectly considered (climate change is the ultimate cumulative impact).
  • However the limited application of programmatic environmental statements in the US, and the fact that implementation of the Chinese SEA legislation is still in its early days restricts the effectiveness of their cumulative impact assessments, and in practice European SEAs also consider cumulative impacts only in a limited manner.


Q4. Table 11.2 shows an example of a strategic level of impact assessment. How does this differ from the project-level techniques of Chapter 5? What might account for the differences?

  • Table 11.2 has a clearer focus on comparing alternatives
  • It is objectives based ('will the alternative help to achieve this objective?') rather than baseline based ('how will the alternative change the baseline?')
  • It is much more broad-brush and subjective than typical project-level impact predictions. It is not quantitative
  • It considers strategic-level issues such as equalities and biodiversity.
    Possible reasons include
  • the large area of land affected by a plan which makes detailed information difficult and costly to provide
  • uncertainty about details of the possible development (for instance its design or its transport requirements) which mean that quantitative predictions cannot be made or, if they are made, would have such a high level of uncertainty as to render them meaningless
  • conversely the fact that issues such as biodiversity and equalities are relevant at a plan level in a way that they are not at the project level
  • legislation that requires SEAs to focus on certain issues that EIAs are not required to focus on.


Q5. Figure 11.6 shows that planners find that SEA helps them to have greater understanding of their plan. Why might that be the case?

  • Plans are often written by several people: SEA considers the impacts of the plan as a whole, and may encourage planners to read each others' plan chapters. In doing so, planners may identify any internal inconsistencies in the plan, and how various plan sections reinforce each other.
  • By challenging planners to consider and justify their plan's impacts, the SEA may give planners a clearer understanding of how the plan's 'mitigation-type' policies (for instance on good design or on protection of bio-diversity) interact with its 'development-type' policies (for instance on how much development of what type is expected).
  • Documenting in an SEA the decisions that they have made may also give planners a more explicit understanding of the costs and benefits of a plan, and how a balance between costs and benefits has been struck.

Chapter 12

Q2. Which stakeholders are more positive about further developing EIA systems and which are less so, and why?

Please find below a table suggesting an order of stakeholders in the EU EIA system from the most positive to the least positive. You may or may not agree with this!

 

 

Stakeholder

 

Some ‘arguments’

Most positive

 

Environmental  (especially) and socio-economic pressure groups

A very useful tool for increasing access to information on projects, and a basis for improved participation

 

Consultants and lawyers

A welcome boon; more procedures = more business opportunities

 

Academics

Provide training courses, and undertake EIA related research!

 

European Union and European Commission (Environment DG)

Opportunity to spread good environmental practice, remove procedural inequalities between Member States etc

 

Local government

Has become more supportive over time, with  increasing experience; but additional pressure on limited local  resources

 

Member State governments

Varies – some Member States (MSs) provide good procedures and guidance, but continuing concerns about subsidiarity, and most are very sensitive to further controls on economic development in difficult times

Least positive

 

Developers

Good EIA practice from some developers, appreciate continuing clarification of procedures, but sceptical  about strengthening   procedures (eg mandatory monitoring)


Q5. What do you understand by 'environmental justice'?

Until very recently, EIA has largely had a poor record in covering the distributional impacts of proposed developments. Impacts rarely fall evenly on affected parties; though a particular project may be assessed as bringing a general benefit to an area , some groups and/or localities may be receiving most of any adverse effects. This raises important equality issues, and there is a growing literature on issues of environmental justice (or perhaps it should be environmental injustice), where certain sections/areas of the community receive increasing environmental burdens, become socially and environmentally more unacceptable places to live, and risk becoming trapped in a vicious circle of decline.

  • An early pioneering response, in the USA, to long campaigning by black and ethnic groups, particularly about inequalities in the distribution of hazardous waste landfills and incinerators, resulted in the Clinton 'Executive Order on Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations' (White House 1994). Under this Order, each federal agency must analyse the environmental effects (including human health, economic and social effects, of federal actions), effects on minority and low-income communities, and appropriate mitigation, when such analysis is required under NEPA.
  • In recent years such issues have begun to be addressed more widely, partly through the growth of Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA), which is about considering how projects, plans, programmes and policies may impact, either positively or negatively, on different sectors of the population in different ways. The key sectors typically considered include age, gender, race/ethnicity, religion, disability and sexual orientation, although other dimensions could include, for example, rural vs. urban, poor vs. rich, or people with vs. without access to cars.


Q11. Why has climate change not been well covered in many EIAs?

  • Consider the following as a starter; but can you add more reasons?
  • in general, climate change issues have not been expressly addressed in EU and Member State EIA legislation and procedures;
  • the generally short-term horizons of EIA compared with climate change;
  • arguments over the nature of climate change and difficulties in dealing with climate change uncertainty; and
  • difficulties in addressing the inter-relationships of environmental impacts and their climate change implications.
    Yet Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from all projects will contribute to climate change, the largest inter-related cumulative effect; and the consequences of climate change have the potential to lead to significant environmental effects on most topics: population, health, fauna/flora, soil etc. See Chapter 12 for some guidance on specific principles for EIA mitigation of GHG emissions.