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Updated to: 09 October 2013Download as PDF
Country contact on EIA
The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment 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.
P.O. Box 93144
2509 AC The Hague
Juliana van Stolberglaan 3
2595 CA The Hague
Phone number: +31(0)70-3735575
Fax number: +31(0)70-3735600
History of EIA
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
- 2010 Fewer requirements in the Netherlands; EIA of plans and projects is uniform
Year of introduction of EIA legislation
Legal framework for EIA
Year of introduction of enabling law
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is established in law in Chapter 7 of the Dutch Environmental Management Act (EMA) (article 7.1 to article 7.42). The existence, function and working method of an independent commission for environmental impact assessment (Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment - NCEA) is set out in (article 2.17 to 2.24). Section 14.2 of the EMA (article 14.4a to 14.16) provides for the coordination for drawing up an environmental impact assessment (EIA).*
Approving authority of enabling law
Year of introduction of first national detailed regulation for EIA
In addition to the Environmental Management Act, the Environmental Impact Assessment Decree (EIA Decree) is important to determine whether the preparation of a plan or project must be subject to the EIA procedure. The EIA Decree is an Order in Council (OIC). The fact that a major part of the EIA requirement is set down in the EIA Decree is evident in article 7.2 of the EMA.
Competent authority for the regulation: Ministry of Infrastructre & Environment
Recent updates and additions to the EIA legislation
The Environmental Assessment Modernisation Bill, 1 July 2010 and 1 april 2011.
The Dutch Environmental Assessment legislation has recently been revised.
- For projects with limited environmental consequences, a simplified EIA procedure has been designed.
- EIA for complex projects, and SEA for plans and programmes, is more elaborate.
Note that ‘simplified’ does not necessarily stand for ‘easy’. For EIA ,the type of permit determines whether the simplified or full-fledged procedue applies.
In April 2011, a last amendment to the EIA Act and EIA decree was made, influenced by the verdict of the European Court with respect to the application of thresholds. The margings applied, were found to be too thin. For example, even if a project falls outside the threshold (see screening criteria) and an EIA is not obligatory, then other criteria (such as project location) with possible negative environmental impacts should still be taken into account. These criteria may provide enough arguments to carry out an EIA or EIA after all.
Article by Selma van Velsen (LLM) in Dutch: M.e.r.-beoordeling: geen drempelvrees! http://docs1.eia.nl/mer/diversen/jm2011-08artikelselma.pdf
Guidance on carrying out an EIA in the Netherlands is described in the 'Handreiking MER' (in Dutch)
Objective of EIA
The objective of the EIA is to ensure that the environment is given full and proper consideration in the decision making process with respect to activities with possible negative consequences on the environment.
In addition, the EIA has two related objectives:
• To promote transparency in decision making. On the basis of what information about the environment are decisions taken and justified?
• To promote participation in the planning and decision making process.
Scope of EIA 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 EIA 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.
In practice, the above situation rarely occurs.
Mandate for exemption of EIA obligation
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.
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.
Institutional setting for EIA
Central EIA authority
Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment
Other key (governmental) parties involved in EIA, 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 EIA 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).
There is no charge for applying for an EIA and also no charges for mandatory advice by the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment.
Overview EIA procedure
The simplified procedure contains the following steps:
- EIA registration and screening
- Review ( incl. publication of EIA report and public consultation)
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
- Review ( incl. publication of EIA report, public consultation, consultation of designated authorities and mandatory review advice of NCEA)
Important documents resulting from the EIA process are the following: Starting document (screening), scoping document, EIA report, monitoring report.
The screening procedure is set down in the EIA Act. 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.
Screening requirement and authority
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 advisors are required in the decision making process about the need to carry out an EIA.
Provision for 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.
There is no legally binding timeline for screening in the Dutch EIA procedure.
In the case that the limited EIA procedure applies for a project, a government agency is the competent authority and the role of initiator (in general) lies with a private party. The required steps are as follows:
- 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.
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.
Contents of the scoping document
In general, the statement must contain at least three elements:
- The rationale for the plan or project
- 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.
There is no official requirement for approval of the scoping document, only a voluntary recommendation on the contents.
Assessment and reporting
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.
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).
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
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.
Integration of EIA 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.
Which competent authority – the national, provincial or local government - is responsible for decision making depends on the project.
The plan or project is only adopted by the competent authority if the EIA procedure has been completed correctly and completely, and if the information in the EIA can reasonably serve as the basis of the ultimate plan or project. This is set down for plans in Article 7.13 of the Environmental Management Act, and for projects in Article 7.36a of the Environmental Management Act
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, advisors 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.
No legally binding timeline.
Monitoring, Compliance and Enforcement
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.
artikel 7.39 lid 1 Wm artikel 7.42 Wm
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.
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).
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
No direct financial penalties, but the project can be suspended.
Public participation requirements for EIA 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.
Public participation guidance
The Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) has published a two-page factsheet on public participation in the EIA procedure.
The knowledge centre of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, InfoMil, has drawn up participation guidelines for people working for a competent authority (municipal, provincial, etc.). See for more information in Dutch
For citizens, the competent authority provides its own participation guidelines.
HANDLEIDING opstellen zienswijze tegen Ontwerp-Inpassingsplan Buitenring Parkstad Limburg, alsmede aanvullingen MER voor Buitenring en Tracenota/ MER-Aansluiting Nuth.
Costs for public
There are no costs for the public for their participation.
Costs concerning legal appeal, please see the chapter on legal recourse.
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.
Public comments in decision-making
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.
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.
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.
Decisions that can be appealed
Decisions on environmental clearance and on project approval can be appealed. You may discuss the content of the EIA in this context.
Who can appeal
Annual no. of EIAs
In 2010: 95 EIAs.
Central EIA 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 (see procedure for the role of the NCEA). Since the NCEA is not a mandatory party for all EIAs, the database does not cover all the EIAs performed in the Netherlands.
There are several practice reviews on the Dutch EIA system.
- 25 years of EIA practice in the Netherlands
- VERSLAG VAN DE COMMISSIE AAN HET EUROPEES PARLEMENT EN DE RAAD on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (Directive 85/337/EEC, amended by Directive 97/11/EC) How well is the EIA directive put into practice by the member states?
- Views and experiences by the NCEA
- and more..... please visit the NCEA online catalogue
Accreditation of consultants
There is no accreditation system of consultants in the Netherlands.
Non-governmental EIA guidance
The NCEA has published various case studies, cahiers and factsheets on EIA related themes and discussions. Most of them are in Dutch.
Links to laws/regulation
Chapters in the Environmental Act with special attention to chapter 7 on Environmental Assessment.