What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?
Environmental Impact Assessment, or EIA, is the process of evaluating the likely positive or negative consequences of a proposed project on the environment (human, physical and natural). The results of the assessment are reported in a document known as the Environmental Statement (ES) and are intended to provide decision-makers with a balanced assessment of the environmental implications of a proposed project, in the short, medium and long term. The ES does not confirm if a project should be approved or refused; instead, it is used by decision-makers as a contribution to the information base upon which a decision is made.
Are EIAs often required?
No. Between 15 August 2016 (when the EIA provision came into effect in the National Conservation Law) and 15 August 2017, only 6 out of 486 applications (1.2%) were recommended for an EIA. For details of these applications and the reasons they were recommended for an EIA, please click here.
How do I know if my development will need an EIA?
The types of development that might require an EIA are listed in Schedule 1 of the EIA Directive (2016). Just because a project is screened does not necessarily mean it will have to undergo an EIA; for example, enough information may already be known about the potential impacts of the planned activity or its effects in the proposed location. In the twelve months since the EIA provision in the National Conservation Law came into effect, only 1 private developer/landowner has been asked to conduct an EIA for their project. This was for the proposed removal of 1,225 linear feet of submerged beachrock and peat in the Seven Mile Beach Marine Park. Please click here to view the Screening Opinion for this project.
Is EIA a new concept?
No. It was first introduced in the U.S. in January 1970 and became a legal part of the planning process in Europe in the late 1980’s; it has since extended around the world. In a local context other jurisdictions that require EIAs include: Barbados (since 1998), Bahamas (since 2005), Bermuda (since 2001), Belize (since 2003), Jamaica (since 1991), St Lucia (since 2001), Turks & Caicos (since 1989)…to name but a few.
What are the main steps of an EIA?
The EIA Directive (2016) outlines the main steps. In essence, EIA is a data management process with three key components:
- Identification of relevant information necessary to assist in reaching a decision (Terms of Reference are developed to document the information required).
- Forecasting of changes in environmental conditions resulting from a proposed project and comparing these with the situation without the proposal/project.
- Assessing and communicating to decision-makers (in the Environmental Statement) the actual environmental changes arising from a project, with and without mitigation measures in place.
By the end of the process, an EIA should be able to answer the questions: is a project as planned environmentally acceptable? If not, can changes be made to mitigate the impacts, or to improve the overall project acceptability?
How long does an EIA take?
The availability of existing data and the requirement to collect and analyse any additional data (including capturing seasonal variations, if applicable) heavily influences the length of time an EIA takes. However, there are formal review stages of the EIA process which have set time limits to assist in expediting the process; these are legally binding upon the Government and are set out in the EIA Directive (2016).
Who conducts and pays for the EIA?
A project proponent will hire independent consultants to conduct the EIA after they have been vetted by the Government for technical competency. A consortium of consultants normally conducts the EIA as differing technical competencies are required for the various data to be collected and analysed. The cost is always borne by the proponent, who is also responsible for implementation of and adherence to the EIA (with oversight from relevant Governmental agencies/departments).
How much does an EIA cost?
The cost is dependent on the scope of the assessment (outlined in the Terms of Reference) and the level of effort to address the Terms of Reference e.g. how much data collection is required. As a general rule of thumb, EIAs account for about 1.5% of the overall project cost.
Can the public participate in an EIA?
Yes. It is essential to understand how a proposed project might interact with the environment, which requires an appreciation of what are considered to be the valued environmental and community resources. Communication with the public about this is essential. Public consultation, facilitated by the DOE, therefore occurs at various stages of the EIA process to ensure that individuals or communities understand what is being proposed and can help to identify any additional impacts that might warrant consideration. The stages of consultation are listed in the EIA Directive.
What are the advantages of conducting an EIA?
A well-executed and through EIA can lead to cost-effective mitigation and/or enhancement. Integrating mitigation into a project design can reduce project costs and lower community costs e.g. impacts to marine life may be mitigated by planning to carry out marine works outside of seasonal reproductive cycles.
For more information about EIAs contact [email protected] or access the EIA Directive http://doe.ky/sustainable-development/environmental-assessment/eia-process/