New Spanish impact assessment law approved

Government seeks to avoid court condemnation for failure to comply with EU directive

The Spanish government on Friday approved a new law bringing Spain into line with current EU environmental impact assessment (EIA) rules. The decision will nearly triple the number of projects subject to EIA and should avert condemnation by the European Court of Justice in an infringement action announced by the European Commission last summer (ENDS Daily 8 July 1999).

The Commission had complained that Spanish EIA law did not cover all the categories of Annex II project set out in a 1997 EU directive amending and strengthening the original 1987 law. The new Spanish law (ENDS Daily 29 June) actually goes beyond the requirements of the directive by placing most Annex II categories - including wind farms and coastal and maritime works - in Annex I, making them automatically subject to assessment.

Another project category included for obligatory assessment is infrastructure work to transfer water from one river basin to another, a provision which is likely to have potential for causing controversy given current government plans to carry out a major water transfer programme which are being hotly contested on environmental grounds.

According to the environment ministry, the new law will mean "a significant toughening of environmental safeguards". However Spanish environmental organisations are sceptical that it will lead to any improvement in the government's record of compliance with EIA law.

Follow Up:
Spanish environment ministry, tel: +34 91 597 6030.

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