Identifying Rollbacks in EIA: Examining threats to Environmental Impact Assessment as a result of fiscal stimulus packages

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Apr 6, 2009

This public discussion has been started to look at different countries proposed and implemented stimulus bills/packages and the impact on access rights specifically related to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) as a procedural step in maintaining standards for environmental management.

Some form of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and accompanying procedures for information disclosure, public participation and judicial or administrative review, have become widely adopted as part of the project and/or policy review process in most countries. Nevertheless, EIAs are often criticized – particularly by project proponents – as costly and time consuming. Given the need for speed in current fiscal stimulus packages, some individuals and agencies have proposed waiving or abbreviating existing participation and consultation requirements within EIAs.

The US government introduced EIAs as an “action-forcing mechanism” to identify, assess, and mitigate environmental and human impacts of government actions in the United States. Since then, EIAs have spread to well over 100 countries, and have been enshrined in Principle 17 of the Rio Declaration, gaining worldwide legitimacy as a critical element of environmental management. EIAs have grown in both strength and scope and are now one of the premiere tools in environmental management in most countries.

Admittedly, EIAs, especially in many developing countries, are often not user-friendly, are inaccessible, scarcely propose feasible alternatives, fail to designate major impacts as “significant,” or offer dubious justifications for selection of the final action. Despite the often already-weak status of many EIAs, many project proponents still see the procedure as a major delay and an inconvenience.

Within the context of the current financial crisis, opportunistic EIA detractors may use fiscal stimulus as a means to erode evolving EIA processes. In order to stimulate their economy, many countries will opt to use fiscal spending policies to boost their economy. Received wisdom suggests that the speed of spending of fiscal stimulus package largely determines its outcome. Emergency spending presents an opportunity for opponents of EIA processes to make major cuts in regulatory scope, institutional mandates, and procedural aspects of the process. Some governments that have proposed to change or suspend EIA laws in order to spend the money more quickly include, Canada and China; others are predicted to have a spike in illegal EIA procedures (ex. China again); while still others may do so through loopholes in the law. Some have managed to put safeguards for EIA in the stimulus packages (hopefully in the US).

Specifically, recent proposals have sought to alter :

  1. Scope of legal regulation:
  • requirements;
  • level of government of the implementing agency;
  • identification of projects needing EIA.

2. Institutional aspects

  • authorized agencies and their respective powers and functions.

3. Procedural aspects

  • communication procedures and time tables;
  • reporting requirements;
  • consideration of alternatives and mitigations;
  • public participation;
  • inter-agency review;
  • justifications for decision-making;
  • appeals.

Safeguards established to protect environmental and human impacts, such as EIA, do not run counter to the success of fiscal stimulus, and must be maintained in order to protect valuable assets and rights communities.

Please, tell us if your government is receiving or spending a large fiscal stimulus package, and is proposing that there are cuts in EIA procedures (or if they have successfully defended them).

If so, please send links to newspaper articles, research you have written (even if it’s not in English), and work of your colleagues.

Attached you will find an informal survey of results from TAI partner responses on EIA laws in their respective countries.

AttachmentSize
EIA Rollback chart.doc63.5 KB
8 Comments

Country: Peru

Partner: Gender and Equity

The debate about environment and fiscal stimulus is crucial in Perú. At the present, the Minister of Environment (a well-known environmentalist) and the Minister of Energy and Extractives Industries insist that environmental indicators and levels will not be modified in Perú. Moreover, the Minister of Energy and Extractives Industries has declared that first of all are the people.

As a sign of how the debate will work, we could discuss Doe Run investment. Doe Run -a China company- is located in La Oroya- Junín, in the Peruvian Andes, where the old and contaminated city lives within the mining exploitation and refining factory. The Mantaro River –which waters the city- is almost dead and children lungs are severe damaged by the contaminated air due to the fact that more than 80 years of mining activities have been working without any control. Doe Run extended in two opportunities the PAMA (environmental program to repair previous damages of mining activities) but they have work on few commitments. The issue is that people living in the city claim and organize demonstrations asking for the continuity of the mining activities. Poverty and environment are not good friends, sometimes¡¡¡

In my personal opinion, the end of this story would be an evidence of the actual involvement of the government in environmental issues.


Country: Venezuela

Partner: AC Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia

Its not the case in Venezuela.


Country: Argentina

Partner: FARN

In Argentina we are suffering the development of large infrastructure projects (with support from multilateral development banks) with gaps regarding EIA and public participation. In addition, when public participation is considered, there are multiple problems regarding its performance.


Country: Columbia

It is not the case in Colombia.


Country: Dominican Republic

The main problem in Dominican Republic is the poor participation of the community during the EIA process.

And I can add that the people really do no know abut the environmental rights, like the opposition of a project, the use of some material, equipments,

Could the government through the EIA process authorize a project even when the community is opposite to the construction or operation?

Which are the exactly environmental rights at the time we can decide the type of development we preferred in our neighborhood?


Country: Chile

Partner: Corporación Participa

It is not the case in Chile.


Country: India

Partner: Environics Trust

While the government does not say that explicitly but in the past few months they have further diluted the provisions.

Further India must be the only country where mining is also treated as `infrastructure’ for the purposes of environmental clearance.


County: India

Partner: Environment Support Group – ESG

ESG organized a Campaign for Environmental Justice - India initative on this issue last week, and it has been highly successful. We hope to stop the weakening if India’s EIA laws as a part of this process. Details are at our website: www.esgindia.org


County: India

Partner: Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment

In India there has been a regressive amendment in the EIA Notification with the principle aim of doing away with Public Hearings as well as in many instances of the EIA Process altogether. Thus many activities such as Construction no longer require Public Hearing though they require EIA reports. Also sectors such as tourism altogether do not require EIA at all. These are just examples of a systematic effort over the last few years in dismantling the EIA process in India.

Even at a functional level, even where projects require Public Consultation as well as EIA, there is hardly any evidence that projects ever get rejected. In a recent analysis (you can see it as www.ercindia.org) we had found out that the rate of rejection of projects is almost next to zero. There seems to be clear directions from the Government to Regulatory authorities not to stop any project on ground of faulty EIA. This seems to have extended to the courts as well where a general consensus seems to have been arrived that courts will not question the economic decisions of the government.

There is a recent draft Notification issued by the Government of India inviting objections and suggestions on further amendment to the EIA process in India wherein different projects including expansion and modernization do not require any EIA approval provided there is no increase in pollution load. However, all these are done on the basis of “Self certification” by the project proponents.

There are numerous instances of such weakening of the EIA regime in India..


Country: Costa Rica

Partner: La Fundación para la Paz y la Democracia (FUNPADEM)

It isn’t happening in Costa Rica.


Country: Sri Lanka

Partner: Centre for Environmental Justice

We have this argument since 2000 and in 2001 Government brought an amendment to remove 30 days public commenting period for IEEs. EIA we still have 30 days. But the way government operate under the current development is process is many project goes with IEE although we feel that they need EIAs.


Country: Paraguay

Partner: Instituto de Derecho y Economía Ambiental (IDEA)

No, this is not the case in Paraguay.


Country: Nigeria

Nigeria has been one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas producers and also one of the greatest violators of EIA regulations due to poor participation, corruption, and/or downplaying of EIA. While the government recently complains of impacts of the global financial meltdown and economic recession, and the adverse effects that declining price (per barrel) of oil to be exported on spending, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, a former Finance Minister and currently World Bank executive recently urged Nigeria’s government to draw from savings of excess crude oil earnings to add to current revenue to continue spending. Before the meltdown, spending on infrastructural development has been, as usual in Nigeria, massive and of course in violation of good and best practices in EIA.

With poor participation, weak civil society, corruption among others, EIA best practices have, by and large, been downplayed, ignored and abandoned by rather anthropocentric development policy practitioners in Sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest economy. Mass poverty afflicting about 70-90 percent of the population is responsible for the poor participation of civil society and communities and stakeholders in EIA processes. While the reception of stimulus packages by Nigeria’s government is unclear, it is certain that huge oil and gas-derived revenue will continue to be spent from savings and ongoing sales. The need to research EIA in Nigeria is urgent and imperative as a way of ensuring sustainable development. TAI Nigeria will like to hear more about this project from you and the TAI Global team.


Country: Hungary

Partner: Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA)

To date there is no sign of such cuts in the EIA procedure.

However, we do have modified (quicker process, less public participation, etc.) rules for so-called highly public interest investments, but this has been the law since 2003 for highways and since 2006 for any other investment that the Government so declares.

See the Hungary case of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee at unece.org. And we have no stimulus package…But a PM who resigned two-three days ago and the successor is now being searched for.

So no time here for strategic thinking, not even for these things like EIA … or what?


Country: Philippines

Partner: Ateneo School of Government

So far its not happening in the Philippines.


County: Nepal

Partner: ProPublic

We do have comparatively good EIA provision and procedure. At the same time the institutionalization of whole EIA issues is yet to be strengthened. There are a couple of loopholes as well in the selection of the project for IEE and IEA with the given threshold limit which is not scientific in some case. In addition to this, there is also lack public participation in the EIA process despite of provision of public hearing, scoping as well as public comment period etc in during the process.

We are interested to be the part of the project as we have reviewed several EIA reports as well as provided our legal and technical inputs.


Country: Mexico

Partner: Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA)

That is not the case in México (so far). But any way I will ask to my colleagues to find out.


Country: Peru

Partner: Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental – SPDA

Definitely, we are interested in participating this initiative because in Perú we already have problems with the weakness of environmental laws. We have to consider, that Perú already has adopted four packages of anti-crisis instruments, via them environmental themes were adapted.

So, at the 30th January, 2009, the Decree of Urgency N° 010-2009 was adopted, declaring the national necessarily and prior-ranking execution of diverse public investments in the context of the international financial crisis (the projects are listed at the annex of the decree). The final intent of these projects is to pay attention at the essential infrastructures and services to ensure the further growth of the Peruvian economy in the context of the international financial crisis.

After that, at the 6th of February, 2009, the Decree of Urgency N° 017-2009 was adopted, showing in consideration of the international financial crisis, that the Peruvian government tries to decree financial and economical measures to keep the dynamic of the economy via the advancement of employment like investments in infrastructure and public services. In this sense, the Decree is establishing dispositions to reduce the deadlines for the execution of the prior-ranking investment projects, considered by the Decrees of Urgency N° 047-2008 and N° 010-2009.

In this sense, the Decree of Urgency N° 017-2009 abbreviates the deadlines for the ratification or modification of the request of classification, presentation and revision of the EIA, confirmation you can see in the decree in the attachment.

In the media the SPDA argues via his Executive Director. In the attachment you can see the comments.

It’s evident that this theme not only seems relevant for us, it is also interesting and at the same time we already have taken actions for to avoid that this continue.


Country: Zimbabwe

The EIA legal framework in Zimbabwe is not good enough because there is no specific provision for public participation. The obligation to do the EIA is on the developer and the Environmental Management Agency will grant the license once it is satisfied that the developer consulted all stakeholders. The institutional framework for monitoring compliance with the EIA provisions has been weakened by the shortage of qualified and or experienced personnel in the Agency. Developers who are politically connected have been known to get EIA licenses without doing any meaningful EIA process.

We are trying to use the current general EIA provisions to guarantee public participation in EIA processes and to reverse EIA licenses which were granted unprocedurally. Fiscal stimuli?…. there has been no action by government related to this.


Country: Uganda

Partner: Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE)

In Uganda, the EIA legal framework is good enough. The EIA process in Uganda has been a huge concern mainly because of the fact that it is done by the developer and approved by the National Environment Management Authority. This has raised a lot of controversy because of the fact that in most cases the developer is seen to be fulfilling a legal requirement hence questioning the integrity and independence of the process. This is based on the fact that the state does not have the funds to conduct the assessment and therefore taking up the responsibility would fail the process. There have also been issues of lack of community participation in the EIA process, and key concerns with the monitoring and evaluation.

Apparently, the National Environment Management Authority is developing sector specific guidelines to address some of the concerns and the ongoing oil exploration brings in another dimension which we are going to be dealing with as we push our EIA research and advocacy work forward.


County: Indonesia

Partner: Indonesia Center for Environmental Law (ICEL)

There is no such policy in Indonesia. Our EIA regulations are very good but the implementation is a different story. We, however, note that there are some weaknesses in our EIA regulations; one of them is no obligation for mining company carries out exploration to have EIA. The reason is that at exploration stage, mining company will not necessarily get license to continue to exploitation stage. I’m not sure whether this is a kind of stimulus/incentive for mining company, but to certain degree perhaps it is.

In fact, there are cases where at the exploration stage, environmental/social damage occurred. The most recent case was a mudflow caused by Lapindo Brantas Company in East Java. 650 hectares area was covered by the mudflow causing more than 50.000 people lose their housings and jobs. They were displaced to temporary shelters and numerous of them are suffered from physical and psychological illness.

Rollbacks in EIA
6:31pm - Apr 6, 2009

It’s not the case in Ecuador. The EIA is compulsory for every company which want to exploit the natural non renewable resources. We used to have a very elaborate proceeding for the participation and consultation of the communities, but it was changed for a simpler one in may 2008. EIA are public information, but the access to these documents is very difficult.

Regarding the question. As
9:11am - Apr 15, 2009

Regarding the question. In Ireland as in Hungary the government introduced a fast track process for planning known as the Strategic Infrastructure Act, 2006, which had both good and bad aspects regarding EIA and participation. It removed one whole stage of the planning process, along with the right to make substantive appeals, but gave ENGOs standing to make legal challenges. There have been attempts to use this for projects like quarries etc but I am not sure how successful. Essentially this legislation removes the local process and makes it more like a courtroom hearing.

We have had no stimulus package here as there is a huge hole in the Goverments finances, and infrastructural projects are being cut. The emergency Budget is to be announced this afternoon, so I will let you know if the position changes.

IMF loan to Hungary
12:00pm - May 5, 2009

Just an addition: IMF has agreed to provide a loan of appr. 16 billion USD back in November 2008. You might want to complement the matrix with this info. See more here: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2008/CAR110608...

dr. Csaba Kiss Director EMLA

IMF Loan
7:19pm - May 19, 2009

That’s interesting, Csaba. I did not notice any specific language on fast-tracking environmental and social processes. Are we to assume that existing laws will still be relevant, or are we waiting for the “other shoe to drop?”

Not sure what you mean
10:09am - May 21, 2009

Dear Joe, I am not sure what you mean. I think, the IMF loan is just a buoy to my country, and although some requirements are posed towards the economy, they affect the govenment spendings and the social securty expenditures first. I see no sign either in the IMF loan package that they would require easing the burden of EIA for investors. However, this is done under the auspices of harmonizing the Hun law with the EU Services Directive that requires changes in administrative procedural laws including the EIA procedure. EMLA is currently working on it for the MOE and we see that the legislative changes will boil down to changes in the EIA law, however, no significant change is expected re the public participation regime or the content of an EIS. The amendments foreseen now are mostly about where to submit an application for an environmental permit and how to keep contact with the competent authority (e.g by email or regular mail). Best, dr. Csaba Kiss Director EMLA

India Story on EIA ruling
3:08pm - Jun 10, 2009

A story about Indian Court and Environmental Tribunals on EIA’s can be found here:
http://www.accessinitiative.org/blog/2009/06/indian-court-re...

That is indeed some news
12:51pm - Nov 6, 2013

That is indeed some news that some individuals and agencies have proposed waiving or abbreviating existing participation and consultation requirements within EIAs. Anyways thanks a lot for the news update. I would like to read regular updates through this site. Microsoft chat

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