On 3 January 2016, amendments made to some articles of the Environmental Impact Assessment Enforcement Rules took effect. The amendments clarify the authority and responsibilities of central and local governments toward conducting environmental assessment reviews, and lay out principles of recusal due to conflict of interest. The revised enforcement rules also mean a greater role for the industry competent authority in ensuring that the division of labor for future environmental assessment reviews is clearer and that evaluations are more trustworthy and effective.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Enforcement Rules were amended on 3 July 2015, with the biggest change ever seen since the promulgation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act in 1995. Amendments to three of the articles – Article 5-1, Article 11-1 and Article 12 – came into force on 3 January 2016 while the remaining changes had come into effect on the date of announcement.
After the amendments, whenever a local government is the developer or the authority in charge of a development project that falls under the Act for Promotion of Private Participation in Infrastructure Projects, and an environmental impact assessment review is being conducted, no representatives of government agencies should sit on the environmental impact assessment review committee. The regulations are tightened to reassure the general public that the review will not be influenced by government representatives to support a local government’s policy.
In the past, the role of the industry competent authority was limited to delivering environmental assessment statements to the environmental competent authority for review. However, the review process often involves disputes over matters not environmental in nature, but that have to be handled by the environmental impact assessment review committee, such as compensation for fishery enterprises or disputes over land expropriation. This usually results in the review process being drawn out, with less time to focus on necessary professional details.
The EPA also took into consideration that the industry competent authority is a part of the government. Therefore, the amendments stipulate that when the industry competent authority receives environmental assessment statements from the developer, it should identify points of dispute that do not come under environmental law and are thus not the concern of the environmental competent authority. It should also add explanations and suggestions about their policies toward a proposed development project before sending the statements on to the environmental competent authority for review. Having the environmental competent authority and industry competent authority cooperating closely will allow the environmental impact assessment review to proceed more smoothly and efficiently.
The amendments also clarify and put into an attachment the authority and responsibilities of central and local governments regarding environmental impact assessment reviews. It also states that whenever a development activity involves two or more competent authorities, or is located in the jurisdiction of two or more counties, provincial cities or special municipalities, the environmental impact assessment will be reviewed by the central competent authority.
In addition, the central competent authority will also be henceforth conducting environmental impact assessment reviews for large-scale or complicated development activities, including projects involving fish harbors, yacht harbors, industrial parks of over 30 hectares in area, factories of state-run industries, cable car projects, and recreation areas in national parks or national scenic areas. Local governments will be responsible for conducting environmental impact assessment reviews for development activities of university campuses, museums, tourist hotels, hospitals, local communities, sports facilities, and other small-scale projects or projects to improve local quality of life. The elimination of all gray areas in the regulations is designed to reduce disputes over how environmental impact assessment review tasks are allocated among government institutions.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)