EU Environmental Impact Assessment: frequently asked questions by domestic legal practitioners

Abstract

Compliance with the requirements of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and/or Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a key feature when claimants challenge big projects like power plants or wind farms. The article answers some typical questions that may arise among domestic legal practitioners. The background and the historical development of EIA/SEA is summarised. The importance of the Aarhus Convention is highlighted. A brief information on the EIA procedure, the invocability of EIA requirements and the role of an actio popularis is provided. It is shown how some Member States have to adjust their concept of subjective right or sufficient interest in order to allow NGO standing. Direct access to justice against plans and programmes may still be a problem in some Member States. However, a consistent interpretation in the light of the Aarhus Convention and/or a contextual reading and interpretation of the relevant EU law may prevent a denial of justice in the field.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Administrative Law Judge.

  2. 2.

    The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) is available at www.iaia.org.

  3. 3.

    IAIA, What is Impact Assessment?, p. 1; available at http://www.iaia.org/uploads/pdf/What_is_IA_web.pdf.

  4. 4.

    http://environmentandhumanrights.org/resources/Rio%20Declaration.pdf

  5. 5.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Environmental_Policy_Act.

  6. 6.

    Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, OJ L 175, 05/07/1985, p. 40.

  7. 7.

    Council Directive 97/11/EC of 3 March 1997 amending Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, OJ L 073, 14/03/1997, p. 5.

  8. 8.

    This summary is taken from: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/eia-legalcontext.htm.

  9. 9.

    The text of the Convention is available at: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/documents/cep43e.pdf. The Aarhus Implementation Guide is a useful tool for a proper understanding and available at: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/Publications/Aarhus_Implementation_Guide_interactive_eng.pdf.

  10. 10.

    Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, OJ L 197, 21.07.2001, p. 30.

  11. 11.

    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 Council Directives 85/337/EEC and 96/61/EC, OJ L 156, 25.6.2003, p. 17.

  12. 12.

    Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 September 2006 on the application of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters to Community institutions and bodies, OJ L 264, 25.9.2006, p. 13.

  13. 13.

    Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on access to justice in environmental matters, COM(2003) 624 final.

  14. 14.

    Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the geological storage of carbon dioxide and amending Council Directive 85/337/EEC, European Parliament and Council Directives 2000/60/EC, 2001/80/EC, 2004/35/EC, 2006/12/EC, 2008/1/EC and Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006, OJ L 140, 5.6.2009, p. 114.

  15. 15.

    Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, OJ L 26, 28.1.2012, p. 1.

  16. 16.

    Directive 2014/52/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 amending Directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, OJ L 124, 25.4.2014, p. 1.

  17. 17.

    Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/pdf/EIA_Directive_informal.pdf.

  18. 18.

    The European Commission, DG Environment uses this chart, by no means an official document, for didactical purposes, cf. the conference on Effective Environmental Impact Assessment in the EU, 7–8 December 2017 Brussels, Stephano Ampatzis, p. 45: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/pdf/EIA_Directive_informal.pdf.

  19. 19.

    Article 25 of the IED Directive, 2010/75/EU; Article 6 (2) of the Access to Environmental Information Directive, 2003/4/EC; Article 13 of the Environmental Liability Directive, 2004/35/EC; Article 23 of the Seveso III Directive, 2012/18/EU.

  20. 20.

    Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights corresponds to Article 6 and Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which enshrine, respectively, the right to a fair trial and the right to an effective remedy.

  21. 21.

    For detailed comparative studies on administrative justice confer: Darpö [1]; Eliantonio et al. [2]; Seerden [5].

  22. 22.

    Thorson [6], p. 111.

  23. 23.

    Gutmann [3].

  24. 24.

    On the 19th century background of the Franco-German divide on administrative justice: Keller [4].

  25. 25.

    The qualified interest may be more ‘narrow’ (e.g.: Hungary) or ‘wide’ (e.g.: Belgium, England/Wales, France and Sweden) cf. Eliantonio et al. [6], p. 67.

  26. 26.

    See the ‘Trianel-Case’: C-115/09 Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz, EU:C:2011:289.

  27. 27.

    C-115/09 Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz, EU:C:2011:289.

  28. 28.

    Cf. the title of a speech given by the former European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik, available at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-12-856_en.htm#footnote-7.

  29. 29.

    Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/full_report_en.pdf, p. 24.

  30. 30.

    Beginning with Case 33/76 Rewe v Landwirtschaftskammer für das Saarland [1976] ECR 1989, paragraph 5.

  31. 31.

    The Communication “Delivering the benefits of EU environmental policies through a regular Environmental Implementation Review” (COM/2016/316 final) was announced in 2016. The 2017 full report is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/full_report_en.pdf and an interactive website with more information at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/country-reports/index2_en.htm.

  32. 32.

    C-240/09 Lesoochranárske zoskupenie (\(`\mathit{LZ} I'\)), ECLI.EUC 2011:125 (‘Brown Bears I’).

  33. 33.

    C-240/09 Lesoochranárske zoskupenie (\(`\mathit{LZ} I'\)), ECLI.EUC 2011:125, para 30 (‘Brown Bears I’).

  34. 34.

    C-240/09 Lesoochranárske zoskupenie (\(`\mathit{LZ} I'\)), ECLI.EUC 2011:125, para 52 (‘Brown Bears I’).

  35. 35.

    C-243/15 Lesoochranárske zoskupenie (‘LZ II’), ECLI.EUC 2016:125, para 52 (‘Brown Bears II’).

  36. 36.

    Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7.

  37. 37.

    Communication of the Commission of 28.4.2017: Commission Notice on Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, C(2017) 2616 final.

References

  1. 1.

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  2. 2.

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  3. 3.

    Gutmann: Ideologie der Gemeinschaft und die Abschaffung des subjektiven Rechts (2018). Available at: www.jura.uni-muenster.de/de/institute/lehrstuhl-fuer-buergerliches-recht-rechtsphilosophie-und-medizinrecht/studieren/recht-und-rechtswissenschaft-im-nationalsozialismus

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Keller, M. EU Environmental Impact Assessment: frequently asked questions by domestic legal practitioners. ERA Forum 19, 551–560 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12027-018-0542-3

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Keywords

  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment
  • Questions by national practitioners
  • Subjective rights
  • Sufficient interest
  • NGO standing
  • Plans and programmes
  • Aarhus Convention
  • EIA Directive
  • SEA Directive
  • Access to justice
  • Denial of justice