ERA is the Competent Authority for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which is regulated by the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (S.L. 549.46). These Regulations transpose the requirements as laid by the EIA Directive (2011/92/EU, as amended by 2014/52/EU).
Schedule I of the EIA Regulations contains a list of development projects which may qualify for an EIA. A detailed list of criteria can be accessed here. Once a project is deemed to fall under Schedule I, a Project Description Statement (PDS) is requested in line with the criteria laid down in Schedule II of the EIA Regulations (S.L. 549.46).
If a development proposal falls under Category I of the same Schedule, the EIA process will commence immediately, following the submission of the PDS.
Should the proposal fall under Category II, detailed EIA screening is carried out in accordance with Schedule III of the same Regulations, to identify whether the proposal is likely to have any significant impacts arising from the same proposal. If the detailed screening does not envisage any significant environmental effects, the proposal would not require the submission of an EIA Report. Should significant impacts be identified in the EIA screening document, the proposal would qualify for further EIA studies through the request of an EIA Report.
Once the Authority determines that a proposal requires an EIA, a 30-day consultation with agencies of Government, NGOs, the affected Local Council/s and the public is carried out, following which ERA formulates tailor made Terms of Reference (TOR) for the necessary studies, depending on the project. Once finalised, the TORs are uploaded on the ERA website without delay. The Authority may adapt or modify the terms of reference, with due justification, at any time according to the environmental considerations relevant to the project.
The developer is responsible for appointing an EIA Coordinator and independent consultants to undertake the necessary studies and assess the likely impacts of the environmental parameters identified in the EIA TORs.
The EIA findings are then incorporated through the preparation of an EIA Report. This is a coordinated report prepared by an independent EIA Coordinator and a team of individual independent consultants. This report consists in a coordinated assessment, technical appendices of the specialised studies and a non-technical summary. Once the EIA Report is concluded, the developer is responsible to publish a notification in local newspapers to inform the public that an EIA Report has been submitted to ERA and is available for public consultation. A digital copy of the EIA is made available on the Authority’s website for a 30-day consultation period. In the meantime, consultation is also undertaken with other Authorities and entities likely to be concerned by the project by reason of their specific environmental responsibilities and specifically to Government entities, the Local Council/s and NGOs. Comments made by ERA and the consultees, including the public are referred to the EIA Coordinator for a reply.
For Category I projects, a public hearing is organised by the developer after the 30 day consultation period stipulated above. All comments made during the public hearing and its subsequent consultation period, are referred to the EIA Coordinator for a reply.
At this stage, any necessary revisions are made in the EIA Report, as relevant either through the re-submission of a new EIA report or an Addendum. Once finalised, these are made available to the public.
At the end of the EIA process, ERA prepares its own final assessment, taking into due consideration the conclusions in the EIA report prepared by the consultant, and relevant ancillary documentation and the comments received from the public concerned. A final assessment is carried out by the Authority and included adequate detailed reasons as to whether it agrees or does not agree with the conclusions reached by the consultants in the report, in whole or in part. A decision in public is taken by the Authority, giving the applicant and the public the opportunity to make comments and representations. The Authority’s position is made publicly available on the Authority’s website without delay and not later than fifteen (15) days from its finalisation. This report feeds into the overall decision-making process whereby a decision is taken with respect to a development permit application. The permitting authority shall clearly make available to the public, at the earliest possible stage and within a reasonable time frames, details of: (i) the authorities responsible for taking the decision; (ii) those from which relevant information may be obtained; (iii) those to which comments or questions can be submitted; (iv) the time schedule for transmitting comments or questions and (v) the nature of possible decisions, and where there is one, the draft decision. Should the development be approved, this would be subject to specific conditions and post-permit monitoring requested by ERA.
Further information regarding the screening, scoping and review stages of the EIA process can be found in the respective links.