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Updated to: 09 October 2013Download as PDF
Country contact on EIA
Contact details for the country contact on EIA.
The Ministry of Environment is the responsible authority for EIA. The Environmental Board, which falls within the area of governance of the Ministry of the Environment is the primary source of information and best practices in matters of EIA/SEA and other environmental legislation and policies in Estonia.
Postal Address: Narva mnt 7a
15172 Tallinn, Estonia
History of EIA
Brief description of the history of the EIA system in the country, including when it was introduced and any major milestones in its development.
The history of EIA in Estonia goes back to 13 November 1992 when the Government Regulation on Environmental Assessment was adopted.
But before that the predecessor of EIA in Estonia was ecological examination and the so-called authorized environmental approval of proposed activities which could have a significant environmental impact.
On 14 June 2000, the Estonian Parliament adopted the EIA and Environmental Auditing Act, which entered into force on 1 January 2001.
On 3 April 2005 entered into force Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act.
Year of introduction of EIA legislation
NB: this field is only meant for the world map. It is a hidden cell that is not published on the website. If available, mention the year when detailed national EIA regulations were issued. If such regulations do not exist and if EIA practice is base
Legal framework for EIA
Approving authority of enabling law
Authority that approved the enabling law for EIA.
Year of introduction of first national detailed regulation for EIA
Year when when the first national detailed regulation (procedural requirements) through which EIA was operationalized.
Government Regulation on Environmental Assessment
Recent updates and additions to the EIA legislation
Revisions of the EIA provisions in the enabling law or the national detailed EIA regulation (procedural requirements) are named. The year is listed, and the main changes since the first regulation are mentioned, if available. Also, additional EIA-re
In 2005, Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act was issued as the EIA enabling law.
The Ambient Air Protection Act and related Acts Amendment Act which came into effect 31 December 2011.
Current national detailed regulation for EIA
Name of current national detailed regulation for EIA and link to it.
Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act. April 2005
Any government issued guidelines on EIA (general, or sectoral) are listed here, as well as the authority that issued each. Describe the legal status of the guidelines.
Guidance on carrying out an EIA in Estonia is described in the following texts (all in estonian):
• “Keskkonnamõju hindamine. Juhised menetluse läbiviimiseks tegevusloa tasandil” written by Peterson, K. and issued by the Estonian Ministry of Environment, 2007
• “Keskkonnamõju ja keskkonnariski hindamine. Käsiraamat.”
written by Põder, T. and issued by the Estonian Ministry of Environment, 2005
• “Natura-eelhindamise juhis” by Environmental Board, 2012
Objective of EIA
The objective of EIA as stated in the above described legal basis.
The objective of EIA is:
• to find the best available solution to carry out human activities in order to achieve economic growth, and at the same time protect the environment and promote sustainable development;
• to provide information to the decision-maker on environmental impacts of the proposed activity and its reasonable alternatives, and the possibilities to prevent or minimise negative environmental impact;
• to allow the results of EIA to be taken into account in proceedings for issue of a development consent.
Scope of EIA application
Describes which types of activities require EIA (public and/or private activities; national and/or foreign initiated project; or all such projects)
EIA is applied to projects initiated by the private sector as well as projects initiated by the government.
According to the Act:
Environmental impact shall be assessed:
1) upon application for or application for amendment of a development consent if the proposed activity which is the basis for application for or amendment of the development consent potentially results in significant environmental impact;
2) if activities are proposed which alone or in conjunction with other activities may potentially significantly affect a Natura 2000 site.
Exemptions from EIA application
Describes any (groups of) activities identified in the regulation that are exempted from the requirement to do EIA (e.g. military or emergency activities).
The following are excluded from the EIA:
• a strategic planning document the sole purpose of which is to serve national defence or civil emergency
• financial or budget plans, programmes and strategies
Institutional setting for EIA
Central EIA authority
Is there a central authority in charge of implementing EIA? Is it independent or linked to a higher body (e.g ministry)? What are its tasks related to EIA?
The Estonian Ministry of Environment is in charge of EIA.
But the Ministry only makes decisions on EIAs of state
Importance (in case of transboundary impact). Otherwise, the decisions regarding EIA-s are made by the Environmental Board.
Mandate for exemption of EIA obligation
Describes if there is a legal mandate for a competent authority to make exemptions of EIA obligation. And if yes, under which conditions (e.g. national security, disasters or no conditions/when deemed necessary).
The exemptions permitted are written down in the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act.
The following are excluded in accordance with Chapter 1 § 1 of the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act:
- a strategic planning document the sole purpose of which is to serve national defence or civil emergency;
- financial or budget plans, programmes and strategies.
(De)centralisation of EIA mandates
Describes if EIA mandates are (de)centralised. Vertical decentralization refers to the extent to which the responsibility for EIA processes are delegated by the central government to the provincial or local authorities. Sectoral or horizontal decen
The EIA mandates are decentralized administratively. Every level of administration has the right to take decisions on their level of governance. There is no sectoral or horizontal decentralization.
Overview EIA procedure
Characterizes the overall EIA procedure. If relevant, interesting aspects of the EIA procedure are mentioned such as: which procedural steps are part of the EIA procedure? How are they linked to each other? Are there different levels of assessment di
The EIA process in Estonia consists of screening (for some activities only), scoping, assessment, review, decision-making on the EIA report approval and environmental clearance and monitoring.
Important outputs of the EIA process are the following documents: starting document (screening), scoping report, EIA report, permit.
Screening requirement and authority
Describes if a formal screening decision required, and if so, which authority is responsible for this decision. Is this decision published?
Screening is required if the proposed activities are not included among the activities specified in the subsection of the Act where EIA is mandatory. The decision-maker shall make a preliminary estimate whether the activities of the areas which are introduced in subsection 6.2 of Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act have significant environmental impact. The decision-maker is the one who issues environmental clearance and has to decide whether to start an EIA or not. In Estonia the decision-maker can be the Ministry of Environment, Environmental Board, County Government or local municipality.
When a formal screening decision is made, whether to require or not to require EIA, the competent authority must keep a record of the decision and the reason for it, and make this available to the public.
Describes the screening process: steps in screening, the stakeholders involved and outcomes of the process, status of screening advice of different stakeholders, etc. Also describes any prescribed methods for screening. If preliminary EIA's / light EIA's / Initial Environmental Evaluations (IEE) are done in this country and which criteria determine whether a preliminary or a full EIA is requested
The decision-maker shall make a preliminary estimate on the basis of all the criteria that is specified in subsection 6.3.1 of Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act and taking into account mandatory or exclusion lists and various other nature protection laws.
Throughout the screening, the developer and the competent authority may find it useful to consult with other interested parties, including the public, experts, other official bodies with responsibility in environmental matters (e.g. nature protection, cultural heritage, water, waste, etc.).
A case-by-case evaluation is next conducted and finally, the screening decision is made, recorded and published
for public access, as well as guidelines for appeal wherever necessary.
There are no requirement for the methods used in screening.
Provision for sensitive areas
Are specific requirements formulated for environmentally sensitive areas? (e.g. no minimum thresholds, full EIA instead of partial EIA)
EIA is mandatory if proposed activities alone or in conjunction with other activities may potentially significantly affect a Natura 2000 site.
If proposed activities may potentially affect Natura 2000 sites, protected areas, special conservation areas, species protection sites, habitats of protected species or individual protected natural objects, the decision-maker shall obtain approval for the draft decision to refuse initiation of EIA with the administrator of the specified protected natural features.
The “sensitivity” of an area (eg. regeneration capability of resources and the absorption capacity of the natural environment) is listed among criteria that are the bases for a decision to initiate or to refuse initiation of EIA.
Contents of the starting document
Describes the required content of the starting document (if any) that the proponent should submit to the competent authority for EIA screening. Mentions if the starting document is published.
The developer is supposed to submit his plans to the authority. The starting document should include the following:
- name and address of the developer
- description of the project: site, extent, purpose,
- impacts on the environment and
- best alternatives in order to prevent/minimize the unwanted effects.
Maximum number of (working) days allowed between submission of the starting document and the screening decision.
There is a different timeline for different kind of development consents.
The screening decision is made in 20-120 days after receiving the application for development consent and depends on the development consent applied for.
Is a formal scoping step required as part of the EIA process?
Scoping is required.
Describes who carries main responsibility to undertake scoping and what the roles and responsibilities of the involved parties during the process are. Specifically, is there independent formulation and/or review of the scoping document, approval of the scoping document? Are any methods prescribed, e.g. participation, checklists. What guidance is provided?
An expert or, under the supervision of the expert and together with the developer, an expert group shall prepare an EIA programme.
The decision-maker shall organise the public display of an EIA programme with the duration of not less than fourteen days. After that developer shall organise a public consultation in order to inform the public of the programme. If necessary, the programme must be amended and then the supervisor can make a decision on approval of the document.
Contents of the scoping document
Explains if there are there specific requirements for the content of the scoping document, and if so, what these are.
As stated in the subsection 13 of the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act, the scoping document must contain:
• the purpose of the proposed activities
• a short description of the proposed activities and alternatives
• information on the content of EIA, including information on the potential sources of impact, the size of the impact area and the affected environmental elements
• a description of the methods of assessment
• a schedule of EIA and the schedule for the publication of the results of the assessment
• information on the developer and the name of the expert
Number of (working) days for the decision on approval of the scoping document by the competent authority.
A supervisor of environmental impact assessment shall decide to approve or refuse approval of an EIA programme within thirty days after receipt of the documents.
Assessment and reporting
Steps and roles of stakeholders in the assessment and status of the input of the stakeholders. Also sets out methods for assessment of the environmental impacts of the activity, if prescribed, and whether the assessment covers environmental, social, economic and/or transboundary effects.
Developer proposes an activity and organizes EIA. Assessment is performed by an EIA expert or expert-group.
The decision-maker decides whether to start an EIA or not and issues the development consent.
The supervisor verifies the lawfulness of decisions on EIA, approves or refuses EIA programme and report, sets environmental requirements and performs ex-post evaluation of the EIA.
Impact is assessed from the aspects of natural, social, economic and cultural environment.
Contents of the EIA report
Explains what should be contained in the EIA report. Specifies if a potential Environmental Management Plan is part of the EIA report or if it is a separate document that contributes to the EIA process.
Expert prepares an EIA report that contains among other the following:
alternatives, impacts, monitoring proposal, record of public participation, project description, ( if necessary) difficulties in the assessment process, assessment of the purposefulness of the use of natural resources and the compliance of the proposed activities, measures to prevent or minimise the negative environmental impact and assesses the likely efficacy of them, summary.
Detailed requirements for the EIA report are set out in § 20 of the Act.
Overview of the review process, including: steps in the process and roles of the stakeholders, status of the input of the stakeholders. Is the process open to public? Review method: internal review, external review, panel/commission (permanent or temporary), are the review results documented? Are the review criteria general or case by case? Are the review results documented? Is a potential review
The developer submits an EIA report in two original copies to the supervisor for approval and determination of environmental requirements after the public consultation regarding the report. The supervisor reviews whether the quality of the assessment is in accord with the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act. After that the supervisor makes a decision on approval or refusal of the EIA report.
Describes if the EIA is checked by external parties, and if so to what extent these represent required disciplines/expertise. Also sets out if measures have been taken to ensure that reviewers are impartial?
The supervisor over EIA is the Ministry of the Environment or the Environmental Board.
The Ministry of the Environment is the supervisor if the Ministry of the Environment issued a development consent or if potential environmental impact of the activities may become transboundary.
In other cases the supervisor over EIA is the Environmental Board.
National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 (Chapter 5 section 24I)
Number of (working) days for review of the EIA by the competent authority.
A supervisor of environmental impact assessment shall decide to approve or refuse approval of an EIA report within thirty days after receipt of the documents.
Integration of EIA into decision-making
Describes what kind of decision-making processes the EIA is intended to support. We look specifically at the decision on EIA approval, and how this relates to envirionmental approval for the project, and other project approval decisions (permits) needed before a project can proceed. This category describes which decisions are influenced by EIA and how they are linked to each other.
Upon making a decision to issue or refuse issue of a development consent, the decision-maker shall take account of the results of environmental impact assessment and the environmental requirements appended to the report.
If the decision-maker fails to take account of the results of environmental impact assessment and the environmental requirements appended to the report, the decision-maker shall set out a reasoned justification in the decision to issue or refuse issue of the development consent.
Describes which authority/authorities is/are responsible for each of the main decision-making processes on EIA (EIA approval, environmental approval and/or project approval). It is explained if those decisions are taken by the same or different authorities.
Responsible authority for decision-making is the one who issues a development consent that developer applied for. The responsible authority decides on the necessity of an EIA and gives the environmental clearance.
The Estonian Ministry of Environment makes decisions on EIAs of state importance. Otherwise, the decisions regarding EIA-s are made by the Environmental Board. Depending on the kind of permit required for a certain project, i.e. water use permit or building permit, the authority that decides on the necessity of an EIA can be the County Government or the local municipality.
Sets out requirements for justification of the consideration of the EIA information in decision-making (on EIA approval, environmental approval and/or project approval).
Upon making a decision to issue or refuse issue of a development consent, the decision-maker shall take account of the results of EIA and the environmental requirements appended to the report.
If, the decision-maker fails to take account of the results of EIA and the environmental requirements appended to the report, the decision-maker shall set out a reasoned justification.
A development consent shall not be issued if the developer is not able to comply with the determined environmental requirements.
Does the decision (on EIA approval, environmental approval and/or project approval) have to be published? Also, is the decision justification published as well?
The decisions on EIA approval, environmental clearance and project approval have to be published.
A supervisor of environmental impact assessment shall notify participants in proceedings of approval of an EIA report by sending an unregistered letter or a registered letter and at the expense of the developer in the official publication Ametlikud Teadaanded (Official Notices) within fourteen days after the decision is made.
The notification shall include information about the time and place for accessing the decision to approve the environmental impact assessment report.
Maximum number of (working) days available to the competent authority to make the EIA based decision (EIA approval, environmental clearance and/or project approval).
The supervisor of EIA shall inform the developer and the decision-maker of a decision to approve the EIA report and determination of environmental requirements or refusal to approve the report within thirty days to the decision-maker. After that the decision-maker can decide on basis of the EIA report whether to issue environmental clearance.
Monitoring, Compliance and Enforcement
Is compliance monitoring required to check if the project is implemented as described in the EIA documents and/or if mitigation of environmental impacts complies with applicable standards and other measures set out in the EIA documents? Who is responsible for ensuring compliance? How does this authority ensure compliance (for example, through inspections)? And what requirements are there for the p
Monitoring is required.
The expert of an EIA makes a reasoned proposal for the establishment of the conditions of environmental monitoring in the EIA report. The Ministry of the Environment or the Environmental Board has the right to determine the conditions and extent of the environmental monitoring. Data from environmental monitoring shall be submitted within the term specified in the permit.
A supervisor of EIA shall carry out the ex-post evaluation of EIA on the basis of the results of environmental monitoring.
If it becomes evident in the course of ex-post evaluation that the results of environmental monitoring do not comply with the requirements provided for in legislation or the development consent, the decision-maker shall amend the conditions of the development consent on the basis of a proposal of the supervisor of EIA.
Are there monitoring requirements that involve external parties, such as citizen monitoring (for example, through a complaints procedure), or third party auditing?
Environmental supervision over the monitoring of the proponent shall be exercised by the Environmental Inspectorate, Land Board and local government bodies and agencies.
Are there penalties that the authority responsible for compliance can apply if environmental conditions are not met? What are these? (for example, fines, suspension of license)
No direct financial penalties, but the project can be suspended. The supervisor of EIA can refuse to approve the EIA report if the criteria for the report is violated as described in the subsection 22.3 of the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act. After the refusal the developer has to amend the report and make it public once again.
But violation of a requirement for EIA (in practice) is punishable by a fine of up to 300 fine units. The same act, if committed by a legal person, is punishable by a fine of up to 3200 €.
Is the proponent required to pay a fee when applying for an EIA? Is this fee linked to a permitting fee, or separate? If yes, when is this paid and to whom (to the agency that issues the license or to a central agency)?
The developer covers all the costs for the EIA. Prior to the submission of an application for activity licence, a state fee shall be paid. It is linked to the environmental permit and it should be paid to a central agency (to the account of the Ministry of Finance).
Public participation requirements for EIA process stages
Describes for which of the EIA process stages public participation is required.
The EIA programme (scoping) and the draft EIA report are subjects to public display, all comments have to be replied.
Public participation guidance
Has any guidance on participation been provided?
No official guidance.
Access to information
Which of the information that is generated in the EIA process is available to the public? Specifically, which reports and decision statements?
Everyone has the right to access an environmental impact assessment programme and report and other relevant documents at the time of the public display.
How can the public receive the information that is publicly available? Are there public announcement on the proceedings? How/where are these published? Is information made available locally? Is information sent on request? etc.
As stated in the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System the decision-maker gives notification of the public display of and public consultation regarding an EIA programme/ report at least:
• in the official publication Ametlikud Teadaanded (Official Notices)
• in one national newspaper or one local or county newspaper
• in at least one public building or place of the location of the proposed activities (e.g. shop, library, school, bus stop).
The EIA programm/ report is available on decision-makers webpage as well.
Timeline for public comments
The number of (working) days available for the public to make comments on the EIA decision document.
The public display of the SEA programme and report should be at least 14 days (two weeks).
The deadline to make comments is set out in the notice regarding publication of an environmental impact assessment programme or report.
Costs for public
Are there any specified costs public parties will incur if they partake in EIA?(e.g. costs for the receiving report, costs of losing an appeal, etc. Costs associated with travel to meetings or such are not included here)
No other costs, unless losing an appeal in the court proceedings.
What options do the public have to provide their comments. Should comments be written, or may they also be verbal? To which agency should they provide their submissions?
Public comments may be both written and verbal.
The agency to provide submissions to is determined in the notice regarding publication of an environmental impact assessment programme or report.
Public comments in decision-making
Do the EIA and/or project approval decisions have to be justified on the basis of public participation results? Do legal texts indicate how public participation results should be used and to which decision-making processses they should contribute?
Not specified in legislation.
Possibilities for appeal
What are the legal recourse options to challenge EIA decisions are provided for within the legal framework?
The procedure not specified in EIA/SEA law. According to the Administrative Procedure Act:
Appeal shall be filed within thirty days as of the day when a person becomes or should become aware of the challenged administrative act.
The appeal can be filed as a challenge proceeding or as a court proceeding.
A challenge shall be filed with the supervisor over the the administrative authority which issued the challenged administrative act.
A person whose challenge is dismissed or whose rights are violated in challenge proceedings has the right to file an appeal with an administrative court.
Decisions that can be appealed
Which EIA decisions can be appealed?
Not specified in EIA/SEA law.
Who can appeal
Who can make an appeal (in other words, has legal standing)?
Not specified in EIA/SEA law.
Annual no. of EIAs
Gives an estimation for the number of full EIAs that are produced annually in this country.
In the research "Ülevaade keskkonnamõju hindamise praktikast Eestis" (An overview of EIA practice in Estonia) made by Säästva Eesti Instituut (Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre) in 2006 says that the average number of EIAs produced annually is between 100-200. There was a rise in 2002 when 238 EIAs were produced.
No newer data available.
Central EIA database
Is there a central database or library where information on EIAs is kept (i.e. where all EIAs are registered and/or copies are archived). If so, what is kept there and is this information publicly accessible?
There is no central EIA database.
Documents about EIAs are administered by the Environmental Board with other documents concerning environmental decisions. The database is publicly accessible. There is also a possibility to make an official inquiry to the Environmental Board if the required document is not publicly accessible. The link to the Environmental Boards database for public information is situated here: http://www.keskkonnaamet.ee/sadr/index.php?id=10534
Any EIA practice review studies that have been done (by governmental agencies or others) are listed here. Where relevant, links to studies are included, and the main conclusions of the studies are summarised.
There have been two major studies about the EIA practice that are all made by Säästva Eesti Instituut (Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre).
The first study was published in 2006: "Ülevaade keskkonnamõju hindamise praktikast Eestis (An overview of EIA practice in Estonia)".
Link to the publication (EST): http://www.seit.ee/et/publikatsioonid?id=4377
The study is divided in six parts: EIAs in Estonia during 2001-2005, survey about EIAs in Estonia, practice dealing with EIAs in European and Estonian court, study about the EIA procedure, the quality of EIAs, task based study of Environmental specialists near the local governments. It is a close study dealing with statistics and analysis of weak points in the EIA process in Estonia.
The second study is published in 2010: "Keskkonnamõju hindamise praktika ja asjaosaliste ootused 2010 (EIA practice and expectations of stakeholders 2010)".
The method of the study was a survey between the stakeholders of the whole EIA process. The survey showed that there still are problems with the procedures of EIA and SEA. The system of the EA is functional overall but some aspects of the process should undergo substantial changes like initiation of the EIAs. There are also problems with communication between the stakeholders.
Accreditation of consultants
Is there and accreditation system operational in the country to certify consultants to do EIAs?
EIAs in Estonia are performed by licensed experts or teams formed by licensed experts consisting of people with the adequate qualification but without a license. A licensed expert is a person who has a valid licence for performing EIAs.
The licence is issued for five years. The assessable areas of activity and impact are determined on the basis of the qualification of the applicant.
Professional bodies relevant to EIA practice in the country, such as EIA Associations, Environmental Expert Associations, etc are listed here.
MTÜ Eesti Keskkonnamõju Hindajate Ühing (NGO Estonian Association of Impact Assessment).
(http://www.ppp.org.za/) (http://www.iaia.za.org/) (http://www.saiea.com/calabash/html/South%20Africa.html#6eia)
Ongoing training programmes (including professional and academic training) and major training events held in the past (with focus on recent events) are mentioned here.
EIA was first conducted in Estonia by the United States Enviornmental Protection Agency (US EPA) during 1993–1996 who organized a program for training experts, officials and local educators. An EIA supervised by US EPA experts followed the theoretical training. Later training for EIAs has been introduced during the info meetings of the Ministry of Environment and courses by training and consultation organisations like Emi-Eco etc. EIA is also taught in several Estonian universities like Tallinn University, Tartu University, Estonian University of Life Sciences as a separate subject within their own curriculums (environmental management, environmental technology, environmental protection).
Latest information will follow.
Links to laws/regulation
Any relevant links to laws or regulations are included here.
• Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act / Keskkonnamõju hindamise ja keskkonnajuhtimissüsteemi seadus
in english (translation last updated Dec 2008): http://www.legaltext.ee/text/en/X90010K2.htm
in estonian: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/867983?leiaKehtiv
• Environmental Monitoring Act/ Keskkonnaseire seadus:
in english (translation last updated May 2005): http://www.legaltext.ee/text/en/X30029K4.htm
in estonian: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/13315995?leiaKehtiv
• Nature Conservation Act/ Looduskaitseseadus:
in english: http://www.legaltext.ee/text/en/X90008K3.htm
(translation last updated January 2012)
in estonian: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/12808270?leiaKehtiv
• Administrative Procedure Act/ Haldusmenetluse seadus
in english: http://www.legaltext.ee/text/en/X40071K4.htm
(translation last updated 1.01.2012)
in estonian: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/686696?leiaKehtiv
Other relevant links on EIA
Any other relevant links (for example to country specific guidance documents) are included here.
- Ministry of the Environment: http://www.envir.ee/67253
- Environmental Board: http://www.keskkonnaamet.ee/eng
- Guidelines for implementing the Habitats Directive (document in Estonian)
- Examples to the abovementioned Guidelines (document in Estonian)
- Study about the quality of nature assessment in Estonia. (document in Estonian)