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EIA profile

Updated to: 09 October 2013

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Background

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Country contact

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Watermanagement is the responsible authority for EIA.
The Dutch knowledge centre InfoMil, part of the ministry, is the primary source of  information and best practices in matters of EIA/SEA and other environmental legislation and policies in The Netherlands.
Email: info@infomil.nl

www.infomil.nl
Phone number: +31(0)70-3735575

History of ESIA

On 27 June 1985, the EIA was implemented for projects in Europe by means of a European Council Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (85/337/EEC). This directive was revised in 1997, 2003 and 2009. In 1987, the EIA tool was officially introduced in the Netherlands. The associated Environmental Impact Assessment Decree (EIA Decree) has since been modified a number of times. In 1994, lists were added to the appendices, parts C and D, stating the activities, cases and projects and plans for which an EIA is required. For a further explanation of the EIA Decree: see webpage.

The main developments:

EIA of projects

  • 1985 European Council Directive on the assessment of the effects of projects on the environment
  • 1987 Dutch Implementation of EIA of projects and a number of plans


EIA of plans

  • 2001 European Council Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain plans on the environment
  • 2006 Dutch Implementation of EIA of plans


Modernisation

  • 2010 Fewer requirements in the Netherlands; EIA of plans and projects is uniform

http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0003245/Hoofdstuk7/71/Artikel71/geldigheidsdatum_10-02-2012

Legal framework

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Framework/Enabling law

Dutch Environmental Management Act (EMA)

National detailed regulation for ESIA

The Environmental Assessment Modernisation Bill, 1 July 2010 and 1 april 2011.

Guidelines

Guidance on carrying out an EIA in the Netherlands is described in the 'Handreiking MER' (in Dutch)

www.infomil.nl

Scope of ESIA application

EIA is applied to projects initiated by the private sector as well as projects initiated by the government.

Manual on EIA/SEA legislation and regulations (in Dutch) http://www.infomil.nl/onderwerpen/ruimte/mer/handleiding/ http://www.infomil.nl/onderwerpen/ruimte/mer/handleiding/wanneer-beoordeling/besluit-0/#OnderdelenCenDvijfkolommen

Exemptions from ESIA application

Only in exceptional cases because of the public interest
Article 7.21 of the EMA provides for an exemption from the EIA requirement in very exceptional cases. An exemption is possible only if “the public interest necessitates the immediate execution of the activity to which the project relates”. For example, in cases where public safety or public health are at issue if the activity is not urgently executed.

Only for projects, not for plans
An exemption from the EIA requirement is only possible for projects that are subject to the EIA requirement based on the EIA Decree or the provincial environmental regulations. An exemption is not possible for plans subject to the EIA requirement based on the EIA Decree or the provincial environmental regulations or because of a required suitable assessment.

Exemption from the competent authority at the initiator's request. An exemption can be granted by the administrative body, i.e. the competent authority, which is responsible for the preparation or adoption of the project subject to the EIA requirement, at the request of the party that wishes to perform the activity subject to the EIA requirement, i.e. the initiator. The initiator may be another government agency or a private party, but the competent authority can also be the initiator.

In practice, the above situation rarely occurs.

Institutional setting

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Central ESIA authority

Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment

Other key (governmental) parties involved in ESIA, and their roles

The EIA Committee is a legally appointed independent advisor in EIA procedures. It advises the government (the competent authority) about the content and the quality of environmental impact assessments (EIAs).
The Committee is not involved in the decision making with respect to a project or plan. The competent authority is responsible for this aspect. 
The Committee does not draw up any EIAs itself, as this is the responsibility of the initiator of the activity subject to the EIA requirement. The initiator may also have a consultancy firm draw up the EIA.
 
The Committee is allowed or required to provide a recommendation

  • At the start of an EIA procedure: what information must be included in the EIA;
  • After the EIA has been drawn up: does the EIA contain all the necessary information to fully consider the interests of the environment for a project.

Before the official start of the procedure, the Committee may also contribute ideas about the most logical and effective structure of the EIA procedure.

The competent authority may also request an interim recommendation.

(De)centralisation of ESIA mandates

The EIA mandates are decentralised. Depending on the type of project and its EIA requirement, the party responsible can be either the local municipality (gemeente), the provincial authority (provincie) or the central government (rijksoverheid).

Payment system

There is no charge for applying for an EIA and also no charges for mandatory advice by the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment.

ESIA procedure - overview

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Overview ESIA procedure

The simplified procedure contains the following steps:

  • EIA registration and screening
  • Scoping
  • Assessment
  • Review ( incl. publication of EIA report and public consultation)
  • Decision
  • Evaluation

 

The full procedure for EIA for complex projects and SEA contains the following steps:

  • EIA registration and screening
  • Public announcement, public consultation and consultation of designated authorities
  • Scoping
  • Assessment
  • Review ( incl. publication of EIA report, public consultation, consultation of designated authorities and mandatory review advice of NCEA)
  • Decision
  • Evaluation

Important documents resulting from the EIA process are the following: Starting document (screening), scoping document, EIA report, monitoring report.

http://www.commissiemer.nl/english/legislation/Procedures

Screening

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Screening process

Screening is a required step in the EIA Act. The competent authority decides on the applicability of an EIA in cooperation with relevant administrative bodies. If the competent authority is also the initiator, then external advisers are required in the decision making process about the need to carry out an EIA. 

To determine whether an EIA is applicable, there are two lists (the C-list and the D-list) with specific activities and thresholds.

Part C contains activities, plans and projects for which an EIA is mandatory. A pdf file (in Dutch) with the categories is included.
Part D contains activities, plans and projects for which a judgement on whether an EIA is required is needed. This means that a judgement must be obtained first on whether an EIA is required or not. This judgement depends on the seriousness of the negative consequences for the environment.
The activities subject to the EIA are based on Article 7.2 of the Environmental Management Act. They are activities with potential negative consequences for the environment which have been designated by an Order in Council. This Order in Council is the EIA Act. Part C of the EIA Act includes an exhaustive list of the activities that are subject to the EIA requirement. In the Netherlands, there is a positive list of activities subject to the EIA requirement, which means that only the activities included in the list are subject to the EIA requirement.

Sensitive areas

In the D-list activities, the 'sensitive area' concept is included as a criterion in the >judgement on whether an EIA is required.

Contents of the starting document

Contents of any starting document:
a. Name and address of the initiator (natural person or legal entity);
b. A general description of the purpose of the activity;
c. A general description of the nature and scope of the proposed activity;
d. A general description of the intended location or locations of the proposed activity;
e. A statement of the project/projects for which the EIA is being drawn as a preparatory step;
f. A summary of prior decisions taken by government bodies relating to the activity as referred to under point c, and which could have an impact on the project/projects for which the EIA is being drawn up as a preparatory step; and
g. A general description of the expected consequences for the environment in the Netherlands and, as far as applicable, outside the country.

Additional information may also be included. The basic idea that could be followed here is that the initiator should include as much essential information as possible to assist the competent authority and the legal advisors in determining which environmental information and alternatives are needed for the decision making process.

Timeline Screening

There is no legally binding timeline for screening in the Dutch EIA procedure.

Scoping

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Scoping process

The fact that it is a good idea to focus attention on the scope and detail level in the preliminary stage is evident: without a guideline, it is difficult to draw up a satisfactory EIA. However, there are no legal requirements for the way in which this is done.

However, there are 'required' steps in both the limited and extensive procedures. 

  • Written communication from the initiator to the competent authority (the official go-ahead);
  • Possible recommendation from the competent authority on the scope and detail level.

The following options are present:

  • The initiator requests a recommendation. In that case, the competent authority must provide a recommendation within six weeks (or, with extension, within 12 weeks).
  • The initiator does not request a recommendation. The competent authority, by virtue of its office, may decide to issue a recommendation, but this is not required. If the competent authority decides to issue a recommendation, the government bodies and legal advisors involved must be consulted about the content of this recommendation. It is not required to consult the EIA Committee, but this is possible on a voluntary basis. The competent authority is required to consult with the initiator about the recommendation on scope and detail level.

In the case that an extensive EIA procedure applies for a plan or project for which a government agency is both the initiator and the competent authority, the required steps are as follows:

    • Public notification (the official go-ahead);
    • Possibility of submitting views on the proposal and the scope and detail level of the investigation to be performed;
    • Consulting advisors and administrative bodies about the scope and detail level of the investigation to be performed.

 

These steps ensure that the scope of the content of the investigation to be performed is discussed in the preliminary stages in some manner. In any case, the competent authority must consult advisors and the administrative bodies involved about their wishes with respect to the scope and the detail level. Furthermore, in practice, the views submitted relate at least in part to the question of what must be investigated in this regard.

Contents of the scoping document

In general, the statement must contain at least three elements:

  • The rationale for the plan or project
  • Alternatives
  • Environmental aspects.

Whether these elements are elaborated briefly or extensively depends on various factors. The main factor is probably the history of the plan or project prior to the start of the procedure.

Assessment

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Assessment process

In the case of a project subject to the EIA requirement, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) is drawn up by or under the responsibility of the initiator.

Contents of the EIA report

  1. Objective: a description of the intent of the proposed activity.
  2. Proposed activity & alternatives: a description of the proposed activity and the reasonable alternatives to be taken into consideration, including an explanation of the selection of the alternatives to be taken into consideration. In the event of a project subject to the EIA requirements, there must also be a description of how the proposed activity will be performed.
  3. Relevant plans & projects: in the case of a plan subject to the EIA requirement, there must be a summary of prior plans adopted that relate to the proposed activity and the alternatives described. In the case of a project subject to the EIA requirement, there must be an indication of this project (or these projects) and a summary of the administrative bodies' prior projects that relate to the proposed activity and the alternatives described.
  4. Current situation & autonomous development: a description of the existing state of the environment, insofar as the proposed activity or the alternatives described can have consequences for this, and of the expected development of that environment, if neither that activity nor the alternatives are undertaken.
  5. Effects: a description of the consequences for the environment that the proposed activity and the alternatives described could have, including an explanation of how these consequences were determined and described.
  6. Comparison: how the expected development of the environment described (point 4) compares to the possible consequences for the environment described as a result of the proposed activity and each of the alternatives taken into consideration (point 5).
  7. Mitigating & compensating measures: a description of the measures to prevent, limit and offset as far as possible major consequences for the environment resulting from the activity.
  8. Gaps in information: a summary of the gaps in the descriptions of the existing state of the environment and the consequences for the environment (points 4 and 5) as a result of the necessary data not being available.
  9. Summary: a summary that gives the general public sufficient understanding to evaluate an EIA and the possible consequences for the environment resulting from the proposed activity and the alternatives described as set out in the report.

Review

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Review process

In the simplified procedure, there is one point at which quality is an explicit priority: after the completion of the EIA, the competent authority reviews whether the quality of the assessment is sufficient, and when the EIA (together with the draft project) will subsequently be made available for inspection. At this stage, attention can be paid to the quality of the EIA as presented in views and comments.


The full fledged procedure contains the legal requirement for the NCEA to review the EIA. The competent authority submits the EIA to the Committee for this purpose, after which the Committee elaborates what is called a 'review recommendation'. This is done by a working group that the Committee creates for every separate plan or project. Such a working group contains specialists with expertise in the specific fields relevant to the plan or project in question. The working group issues an independent opinion on the EIA. A basic principle in this regard is the definition of scope and detail level that has been set out in the preliminary stages. However, the Committee also especially checks whether the environmental information needed for the decision is present. This means that the Committee also examines the quality of the content (whether it is correct, complete, sufficiently recent, balanced, etc.).

The Commission evaluates the EIA and draws up a draft recommendation. In practice, this means that the Committee will often pose questions to the competent authority or the initiator. The answers to these questions can be used in the review, in which case it is important that any additional information is published (for example, together with the decision).

Review expertise

In the full fledged procedure the EIA report has to be reviewed by the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA). Its independent experts assess whether the quality of the environmental information is sufficient for decision taking. To ensure that the NCEA’s decisions are unaffected by any administrative responsibilities or political considerations, the NCEA acts totally independent from the Government. On the NCEA’s website, all advisory reports (in Dutch) are made public and accessible to everyone.
In the simplified procedure, the review by the NCEA is optional. 

Handreiking m.e.r. http://www.infomil.nl/onderwerpen/ruimte/mer/handreiking-0/ http://docs1.eia.nl/cms/FS%2016%20Advisory%20procedure%20NCEA%20ENG%20Final.pdf

Timeline Review

The NCEA must publish its advisory report on the quality of the EIA in the timeline for general participation, generally six weeks. If views are included in the Committee's recommendation, an additional period of three weeks is applicable.

Decision making

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Integration of ESIA into decision-making

The EIA procedure is connected to the procedure that must be followed for the plan or project in question. This means that plans or projects must primarily comply with the requirements of the ‘master procedure’ or the ‘simplified procedure’. These requirements are set down in very diverse laws and regulations. This depends on the type of plan or project and the administrative body that is authorised for the preparation or adoption of these, i.e. the competent authority.

Decision justification

The plan or project includes an explanation of how account was taken of:

  • The possible consequences for the environment described in the EIA;
  • The alternatives described in the EIA;
  • The views submitted with respect to the EIA;
  • The required recommendations issued by the EIA Committee (only for the extensive procedure);
  • Any major negative cross-border environmental consequences and the outcome of the consultations on this with the administrative bodies in the other country concerned.

The project is announced in accordance with the requirements of the master procedure. If this master or basic procedure does not provide for the following...

  1. Public notification of the plan adopted or an announcement of the project;
  2. Communication by submitting a copy of the adopted plan (including the EIA) or project to those who provided a view or were involved during the preparation stage (EIA Committee, advisers and administrative bodies);

...then these things will be provided for in the context of the EIA procedure. The requirements and terms from the General Administrative Law Act will apply in this regard.

Follow up

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Compliance monitoring

After adopting a plan subject to the EIA requirement, or taking on a project subject to the EIA requirement, the competent authority concerned must investigate the actual environmental consequences resulting from the performance of the activity. The time periods for the start of the investigation and the way in which this will be performed will have already been determined for the plan or project.

The Dutch procedure does not state that an initiator must commence monitoring activities. At this point, agreements are made as to whether and when the initiator must submit monitoring data to the competent authority.

The competent authority and the environmental inspectorate are responsible for monitoring projects and plans and their impact on the environment. If the initiator is a private party, it is required to cooperate fully in providing information when requested.

Report
The competent authority draws up a report of the investigation into the environmental consequences. No form or content requirements are set out for this in the EIA procedure in the Environmental Management Act. The competent authority gears the report towards:
• The advisors and administrative bodies that are involved in the preparation stage for the plan or project due to the legal requirement that serves as the basis for the plan or project concerned;
• The advisors in the context of the Environmental Management Act (See Recommendation and consultation on scope and detail level' for an explanation);
• The EIA Committee in the extensive EIA procedure;
• The initiator of a project (unless the competent authority itself is the initiator).

Publication
For a project, at the same time the report is submitted (the notification), a notice of the report is published in one or more daily papers, newspapers or free local papers, or in another suitable manner (notification of the public). A statement with the pertinent points of the report is sufficient. In the case of an administrative body that is part of the national government, the notice is published in any case in the Government Gazette, unless this has been otherwise legally arranged for the plan or project concerned.

Measures to limit or prevent environmental consequences
The investigation into the environmental consequences may reveal that the proposed activity has "more unfavourable consequences for the environment to a major extent" than expected upon the adoption of the plan subject to the EIA requirement or the taking on of the project subject to the EIA requirement. If deemed necessary by the competent authority in that case, measures that are available to the competent authority will be taken to limit or prevent the environmental consequences as much as possible.

Art. 7.39, 7.41, 7.42

Non-compliance penalties

No direct financial penalties, but the project can be suspended.

Stakeholder engagement

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Public participation requirements for ESIA process stages

There is a difference in public participation concerning the simplified procedure and the extensive procedure.

Concerning the simplified procedure, public participation is legally required only after publication of the EIA report. The public can provide comments on the information in the report.

Concerning the full fledged procedure, the statutory regulation for the extensive EIA procedure provides for two moments in time when views can be submitted:

  • In the preliminary stages: after the publication of the public notification and before the start of the compilation of the EIA
  • After the completion of the EIA: before, or when, the EIA is made available for inspection with the design or draft design of the plan or project and its justification.

Comments from the public can be submitted in writing. If the competent authority concerned organises a hearing, public comments can also be provided verbally.

Please note that the competent authority is not obligated to organise public meetings.

In its decision, the competent authority provides an explanation for how it has taken the public's views on the EIA into account.

Furthermore, the competent authority must also provide an explanation of how it takes the following into consideration:

  • The possible consequences for the environment described in the EIA;
  • The alternatives described in the EIA;
  • The required recommendations issued by the EIA Committee (only for the extensive procedure);
  • Any major negative cross-border environmental consequences and the outcome of the consultations on this with the administrative bodies in the other country concerned.

 

There are no costs for the public for their participation. Costs concerning legal appeal, please see the chapter on legal recourse.

Access to information

With respect to the simplified procedure, the EIA report (possibly in draft form) and the draft decision will be made available to the public. The public can then submit comments, usually during a six-week period after publication.

A starting document for the planned project or plan must be published by the competent authority. The public can submit their views on the starting document. The authority decides who may submit the views, and when and where this can be done.

The draft or final EIA report and the draft or final decision will be published and made accessible to the public. In most cases, the public may submit views for a period of six weeks.

A notice of the report is published in one or more daily papers, newspapers, or free local papers, or in another suitable manner. In the case of an administrative body that is part of the national government, the notice is published in any case in the Government Gazette, unless this has been otherwise legally arranged for the plan or project concerned.

Appeal

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Possibilities for appeal

The possibilities for appeal follow from the law of which the EIA decision is part. It is not possible to appeal an EIA decision alone. You can only appeal the decision on the planned activity. Only stakeholders may appeal.

ESIA practice

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Annual no. of ESIAs

Since there is no central database, it is unknown how many ESIA's are annually carried out. 

Central ESIA database

There is no central EIA database. However, the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) maintains a database with EIAs (and SEAs) for which an NCEA recommendation was mandatory or voluntarily requested. Since the NCEA is not a mandatory party for all EIAs, the database does not cover all the EIAs performed in the Netherlands.

Professional bodies

Association of Environmental Professionals (VVM)