What is environmental impact assessment

How does an environmental impact assessment work?

The following figure shows the process of an EIA schematically.

Determination of the EIA obligation (§ 5 UVPG)

In the first step of the EIA, the so-called screening, it is necessary to determine whether a specific project, such as B. a wind farm, an environmental impact assessment is to be carried out. In this example, the number of individual wind turbines, the occurrence of endangered bird and bat species, the proximity to localities and the extent to which such systems are already in the vicinity are decisive for this.

Figure: Determination of the EIA obligation: decision-making process in accordance with Appendix 1 of the UVPG

Appendix 1 of the Law on EIA (UVPG) contains a list of projects that require an EIA. A total of 149 project types are listed in Appendix 1, mostly with an indication of the threshold values ​​from which an environmental impact assessment is carried out. Appendix 1 includes project types from the following areas:

  1. Heat generation, mining and energy
  2. Stones and earth, glass, ceramics, building materials
  3. Steel, iron and other metals including processing
  4. Chemical products, pharmaceuticals, mineral oil refining and processing
  5. Surface treatment of plastics
  6. Wood, pulp
  7. Food, beverages and animal feed, agricultural products
  8. Recovery and disposal of waste and other materials
  9. Storage of substances and mixtures
  10. Other industrial equipment
  11. Nuclear energy
  12. Landfills
  13. Water management projects with the use or expansion of a body of water
  14. Transport project
  15. Mining and permanent storage of carbon dioxide
  16. Land consolidation
  17. Forest and agricultural projects
  18. Construction project
  19. Line systems and other systems

The list differentiates between projects for which an EIA is always carried out, e.g. B. the construction of a 220kV or 380kV high voltage line with a length of more than 15 km (indicated by an X), and those for which a preliminary test takes place. A preliminary examination of the individual case applies to projects which, according to the assessment of the legislature, are possible but not to be expected in every individual case. The aim of the preliminary assessment is then to roughly estimate the possible environmental impact of the project and to decide whether an EIA is necessary for a specific project.

In the preliminary test, a distinction is made between general and site-specific preliminary tests.

In the general preliminary examination of the individual case (marked with an A), the authority determines whether a project is based on its characteristics (e.g. size, accident risk), its location (e.g. protected areas, ecological sensitivity) or e.g. B. the severity, duration and frequency of possible environmental impacts make an EIA necessary. One example is the construction of a 110kV high-voltage overhead line with a length between 5 and 15 km. The criteria for the general preliminary examination of the individual case are listed in Annex 2 UVPG.

Plants of low capacity or size, e. B. 110 kV high-voltage overhead lines that are shorter than 5km, with particular attention to the local situation. In addition, it may be necessary to carry out an EIA if the planned project increases the risk of accidents (cf. § 8 UVPG). For more details on when an EIA must be carried out, see §§ 6-14 UVPG.

In addition to Appendix 1 to the UVPG, the EIA obligation for new projects can also result from other regulations: Compare the EIA Mining Ordinance.

Carrying out an EIA is not only an option for completely new projects. Existing projects that are to be changed (so-called change projects) can be subject to EIA again or for the first time (Section 9 UVPG).

An EIA can also be considered if several individual projects together are expected to have significant environmental impacts (so-called cumulative projects, cf. § 10 UVPG). From such cumulative projects. One speaks when at least two projects of the same type are closely related and systems of the projects are connected to common operational or technical facilities. In such cases, too, it is possible that an EIA is mandatory. It is based on the fact that the projects can jointly cause environmental effects that go well beyond the effects of the individual project and are therefore of importance for the approval decision. Sections 10-13 UVPG regulate the details.

Determination of the scope of the investigation (§ 15 UVPG)

If an EIA is to be carried out, the next step is usually to define the scope of the investigation for the EIA report (so-called “scoping”). To this end, the authority informs and advises the developer at an early stage about the content (e.g. considerations on groundwater), scope (e.g. focus on certain protected assets), depth of detail and the methods to be used (e.g. counting sand lizards) of the investigations .

The competent authority can give the developer the opportunity to discuss the scope of the investigation. It is often advisable to include additional specialist knowledge and the knowledge of third parties, i.e. experts, environmental associations, authorities or other third parties, in a so-called scoping appointment in addition to the developer. In certain cases, e.g. B. If the parties involved agree to the proposed scope of the investigation, such an appointment can be dispensed with and the assessment of the authorities and associations can be obtained in writing.

EIA report (§ 16 UVPG)

The EIA report is then drawn up on the basis of the established investigation framework. The content is presented in writing and is usually illustrated by images and maps. The EIA report contains at least:

  • Description of the environment in the study area (inventory and assessment),
  • Description of the project (e.g. location, type, technical design, size),
  • Description of the reasonable alternatives that have been examined by the developer,
  • Description of the characteristics of the project, location and the planned measures with which significant adverse environmental impacts of the project are to be excluded, reduced, compensated for or replaced,
  • Description of the significant environmental impacts to be expected,
  • generally understandable, non-technical summary.

Participation of the public and other authorities (§§ 17, 18 ff. UVPG)

Once the EIA report has been prepared, it is first checked for completeness by the competent authority. In order to ensure that all relevant effects and necessary measures have been taken into account, the public and those responsible for public affairs (especially specialist authorities) are now given the opportunity to participate in the respective approval process. The documents are displayed for the public. This means that they are made available to the public in paper form in at least one place, often even in several places. The documents laid out are also electronically accessible via the EIA portals. In any case, the document laid out remains decisive. The public affected by the project can comment on the project as part of their participation and, if necessary, take part in a discussion meeting. How the information received from the public was taken into account is documented and justified. After the process has been completed, the decision will be announced to the public. The expertise of other specialist authorities is also important in order to B. To receive information on the environmental compatibility of the project.

Consideration of the EIA report in the approval decision (§§ 24, 25 UVPG)

Before the competent authority makes its decision on the approval of the project, it summarizes the environmental impacts of the project again. In addition to the results of the EIA report, the statements of the authorities and the public concerned and, if necessary, the results of their own investigations are included in the summary presentation with a. The authority then assesses the environmental impact of the project on the basis of this summary. She justifies her evaluation. The justified assessment must then be taken into account when making the approval decision.

Announcement and justification of the decision (§§ 26, 27 UVPG)

The competent authority then publishes its approval decision and makes the decision on approval or rejection of the project available for inspection.