ERA is the Competent Authority for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which is regulated by the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2017 (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 on an EIA Report.
Once the Authority determines that a proposal requires an EIA, the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the study are formulated by ERA following a 30-day consultation period with agencies of Government, NGOs, the affected Local Council/s and the public. The TOR, which are tailor made to the project, will determine the content of the EIA Report.
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 entities of Government, 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 within or 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.
At the end of the process, ERA prepares a report based on the EIA findings together with a recommendation. This report feeds into the overall decision-making process whereby a decision is taken with respect to a development permit application. Should the development be approved, this would be subject to specific conditions and post-permit monitoring.