The EPA aims to reduce the excessive time it spends on evaluating environmental impact assessments (EIA), to increase efficiency and accountability in the EIA system, and moreover also wishes to allow opinions of all stakeholders to be heard. To these ends, the EPA is drafting amendments to modify EIA review procedures, revise specific items of the strategic environmental assessment, and modify EIA enforcement rules and standards for determining specific items and the scope of EIAs for developmental activities.
Premier Chuan Lin recently indicated that the current environmental assessment system needs to be reexamined to make it more effective in screening development activities and to be more efficient in its review processes. On 28 June the EPA announced that it would be pushing ahead with amendments to EIA-related regulations so as to enhance EIA functioning and efficiency. The amendments will also strengthen environmental assessment policies and the implementation of EIA review decisions in response to the promulgation of the Spatial Planning Act.
The timetable for the amendments to EIA administration includes: within two months, EIA review procedures will be adjusted; within six months, amendments to specific items of the strategic environmental assessment, guidelines for EIA review, as well as standards for determining the specific items and scope for EIAs will be formulated; within nine months a draft of amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act will be put forward; within 18 months a draft of regulations governing social impact assessment techniques will be forged.
The EPA will start with adjustments to EIA review procedures. In the future, before the special task force meets, the EPA will hold a meeting where a development is proposed, and collect opinions of the public and relevant organizations. The special task force will meet no more than three times for each EIA review case, and no changes to EIA statements will be allowed after the final special task force meeting. However, the current document review procedure will be maintained so that the EPA can keep track of previous suggestions. Both these measures should help to maintain review efficiency.
In response to the promulgation of the Spatial Planning Act, the EPA will discuss with relevant ministries the addition of new specific items for the strategic environmental assessment regarding land-use plans governed by the said Act, and submit draft amendments to the Executive Yuan for approval within six months from now. Other specific items for the strategic environmental assessment, such as tourism development, are in consideration as well.
The EPA is also considering amendments to the Working Standards for Developmental Activity Environmental Impact Assessments and the Standards for Determining Specific Items and Scope of Environmental Impact Assessments for Development Activities. The main focus of amendments to the working standards will be to include the concept of regional planning and regional control as a part of national land use planning in the future, and also to amend the Table of Restriction Surveys for Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Special Purpose Areas. Amendments to the determining standards will be focused on review of the necessity of specific items, such as pilot plans for mining or other activities involving land use.
The main points of the amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act are as follows: The industry competent authority must henceforth play a more active role in eliminating the symbiotic relationship between developers and consultancies and in harmonizing the implementation of national land use plans.
In keeping with the spirit of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, within eighteen months the EPA will produce a draft of regulations governing social impact assessment techniques. The draft will include new factors to be considered in the future such as indigenous peoples’ rights and the impact of forced relocations. This falls under “social environment” impact assessment, as defined in Article 4 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, and represents a step on the road towards transitional justice for Taiwan’s indigenous peoples and the full safeguarding of land justice and housing justice for everyone.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)