An environmental impact assessment (EIA) allows the identification, description and assessment of the direct and indirect effects of a project of a certain size on man, flora and fauna, the earth, water, air, climate and landscape, on material goods and the cultural heritage as well as the interaction of all these factors.
Certain projects listed in the nomenclature on classified establishments are subject to an EIA.
This procedure has been harmonised on a European level. Its purpose is to take into consideration, as early as possible, the environmental impact of all technical planning and decision-making processes, namely by taking into account possible substitute solutions for the projects for which the applicant intends to submit an application.
The assessments should be carried out preferably before the application for an operating permit for a classified establishment ('commodo/incommodo') or for a water permit.
Carrying out an EIA requires the involvement of specialised engineering consultancy firms because of the particularity of the elements requested.
Depending on their likely impact on the environment, some classified establishments in class 1 are automatically subject to a EIA.
These are mainly:
- industries or undertakings active in the extraction or processing of resources, energy production, treatment of sewage and waste or the processing and storage of raw materials;
- other large industries such as entreprises involved in metal smelting and fabrication, chemical plants and paper mills;
- intensive livestock farming facilities, etc.
Other establishments will only be subjected to an EIA if deemed necessary by the Environment Agency.
These include undertakings involved in:
- wind farms;
- drilling projects;
- industrial parks;
- the treatment and disposal of waste;
- water treatment;
- test benches for internal combustion engines, turbines and jet engines;
- manufacturing and production of man-made mineral fibres, etc.
In order to find out whether an EIA is required, applicants can consult the column headed EIE in the nomenclature of classified establishments, in which:
- establishments which are automatically subject to an EIA are indicated by the note I;
- establishments which may be subject to an EIA at the Environment Agency's discretion are indicated by the note II.
As the assessment takes place in parallel to the operating permit application for classified establishments, it must be made sure that the application file contains all the required documents.
Projects which are not automatically subject to an EIA
For projects which are not automatically subject to an EIA, applicants are required to provide the Environment Agency with all the elements necessary to evaluate the need for such an assessment.
Whether an EIA is required or not will be evaluated upon the following elements:
- the project characteristics: dimensions, combination with other projects, use of natural resources, production of waste, pollution and other nuisances, risk of accidents, namely taking into account the materials and technologies used;
- the location of the project: i.e. the existing land use occupation, the quality and capacity of regeneration of the area's natural resources, the natural environment's carrying capacity;
- the characteristics of the project's potential impact: its geographic scope and impact on the population, its cross-border nature, its size and complexity, its probability, duration, frequency and its reversibility.
In the case of a positive reply stating the need for an EIA, said EIA must be attached to the application for the operating permit for classified establishments.
Projects which are automatically subject to an EIA
For projects which are automatically subject to an EIA, the EIA report must be attached to the operating permit application for classified establishments.
The EIA forms an integral part of the operating permit application for classified establishments. Certain elements of the assessment may be detailed in the operating permit application for classified establishments in order to better define certain aspects of the project.
In order to carry out an EIA, applicants can request the Environment Agency's opinion on the information to be included in the EIA (however, this opinion does not exclude that additional information can be requested by the administration at a later stage of the procedure).
Content of the EIA
The EIA must at least contain the following minimum information:
- a description of the project including information concerning the plot and the project's setup and size;
- a description of the means put in place to avoid, reduce and eventually eliminate significant negative impacts, if possible;
- the data necessary for the identification and assessment of the project's main potential environmental impacts;
- an outline document concerning possible alternatives which have been envisaged by the project owner and the main reasons for his final choice, given the impact on the environment;
- a non-technical summary of all the information provided.
The Environment Agency may request additional information if it deems necessary.
No specific authorisation or condition will be granted based on the assessment alone.