The review can be carried out in three steps:
- Step 1: identifies the deficiencies in the EIA report, using the Terms of Reference, relevant guidelines and criteria and information from any comparable EIA reports and their reviews.
- Step 2: focuses on any shortcomings in the EIA report and separate crucial deficiencies, which may directly impede decision-making, from less important ones. If no serious omissions are found, this should be stated clearly. Remarks about less important deficiencies can be placed in an appendix.
- Step 3: recommends how, and when, any serious shortcomings are to be remedied to facilitate informed decision-making and appropriate measures for project implementation.
Determining remedial options
Three remedial options are available when an EIA report fails to meet the standards required. These are scaled to the nature and scope of the inadequacies.
- The shortcomings of the EIA report are so serious that they require immediate remedy, either a supplementary or a new EIA report – In this situation, the review should give a clear statement as to how the additional information can be collected and presented. The review team must realise that the decision-making will be delayed by some time until a new report or supplement to the EIA report is completed.
- The shortcomings are not serious and can be rectified by explanatory material attached to the report or conditions attached to the approval – This situation has the advantage that decision-making can proceed as planned without a major delay necessitated by gathering additional environmental data.
- The shortcomings are not major but cannot be remedied immediately, either by providing additional information to the EIA, or in the form of explanations and conditions attached to the decision, because they require too much time and effort to collect – In this case, the review could recommend monitoring the shortcomings and uncertainties during the implementation and operation of the project. Corrective measures should be identified in case impacts turn out to be worse than expected.
EIA review and the acceptability of the proposal
In some EIA systems, the review stage concerns only the quality and adequacy of the environmental information in the EIA report. Step three as described above concludes the review. Either a statement of sufficiency or deficiency is issued, and in the latter case, serious shortcomings are identified and options to remedy them are described.
A number of countries have review procedures that tender advice on the implications of the findings for decision-making, or make a recommendation on whether or not the proposal should be approved or can be justified on environmental grounds.
In this case, an additional step is added to those mentioned above:
- Step 4: Give either a green (go) or red (stop) or yellow light (conditional acceptance) for the environmental aspects.
This step builds on the previous three steps. It does not address the final decision of whether or not the proposal is acceptable or should be approved. That requires a political decision, taking into account the trade-offs among environmental, economic and social factors (see Section 10 â€“ Decision-making).
A range of methods can be used to review the adequacy of an EIA report. The methods are generally the same as those used in impact analysis and include:
These can be adapted to review purposes, using compliance with local EIA legislation or guidelines as the starting point. A range of criteria drawn from the discussion in the section above can then be incorporated. Sectoral checklists represent a further stage of development to review the technical adequacy of EIA reports in terns of their coverage of specific types of impacts, mitigation measures and monitoring requirements. There is more information available at Procedures for Reviewing EIA Reports in the EIA Wiki.
Project specific checklists and guidelines
These can be based on a general or sectoral checklist, with further adaptations to suit the requirements of the specific project and its terms of reference.
EIA review frameworks and packages
A number of these are available. The Environmental Statement Review Package developed by the EIA Centre, University of Manchester is widely referenced and used by non-specialists. It comprises a seven-part rating scale, directions on its use and a collation sheet for recording findings on EIA components, such as baseline information, impact prediction and consideration of alternatives. Other review packages are available and can be adapted for use in cases where guidance and criteria have yet to be established.
Expert and accredited reviewers
One or more experts can be used to peer review the adequacy of the report. The expert(s) contracted should be independent from those involved in preparing the EIA report or undertaking studies. In some countries, EIA experts are accredited or registered as capable of carrying out a study or review.
Public hearings on an EIA report give the highest level of quality assurance. They provide affected and interested parties with an opportunity to comment extensively on the information and findings. These benefits are maximised when public hearings are held by an independent EIA panel, commission or other inquiry body. A structured and systematic process can be followed to test the quality of the report and to integrate technical evidence and public comment.
Comprehensive review of the EIA process
Effectiveness frameworks can be used when a comprehensive review of the EIA process leading to report preparation is considered necessary (see Review Framework in the EIA Wiki). For example, this approach may be called for if there are very serious deficiencies with a report and each step needs to be revisited. Also, effectiveness review can help our understanding of how different EIA components and activities affect the quality of EIA reports and indicate ways review procedure and criteria themselves may be strengthened. In this regard, effectiveness review can cover the overall performance of the EIA process. Further information on this subject can be found in Section 11â€“ Implementation and follow up.