EIA SCREENING IN DENMARK: A NEW REGULATORY INSTRUMENT?
ESKILD HOLM NIELSEN
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process by which the effects that proposed projects are likely to have are assessed with respect to a number of environmental criteria. Screening is an activity carried out in advance of an EIA to determine whether, in fact, it is necessary to undertake a full assessment. In that sense screening has become not only an administrative filtering procedure but also effectively a kind of regulation.Since the implementation of the Directive in 1999, counties (county councils) in Denmark have screened around 2000 projects annually. Approximately 3 percent of the decisions arising from screening lead to a "full EIA".This article is based on a study of 98 documented screening decisions combined with interviews with developers and their consultants as well as county officials for each project. Herein, we analyse both the number of modifications to projects made due to the screening process and also how radical or significant the modifications were.EIA regulation meant that approximately 45 percent of the projects were modified. Around half of these modifications were actually made before the administrative process even started. The mere fact that screening exists functions as an eye-opener to developers and consultants. In general, the nature of changes made before and after submission of the application was similar. They covered basically minor changes.Examining the assessments made during screening more closely, we conclude that there is still far to go in order to make the assessment broader and more holistic in accordance with the ambitions set out in the EIA Directive. Among other things, this goes for the assessment of cumulative and potential impacts.On the basis of the evaluation, we also conclude that screening is effectively a regulatory instrument in its own right. Moreover, it seems to be a cost-effective instrument in the sense that, without incurring much administrative expense, it potentially results in environmental benefits.
EIA, screening, scoping, regulatory instruments, effects of regulatory instruments, implementation
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