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Environmental impact assessment
1. Environmental Impact Assessment under the Environmental Protection Act (Zakon o varstvu okolja – ZVO) (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, Nos. 32/93 and 1/96)
Environmental impact assessment was introduced by ZVO as a specific procedure in which it must be determined whether the planned activity in the environment presents a potential risk to the environment and can cause environmental damage or degradation, or whether such an activity is actually possible in terms of consequences for the environment. The starting point in this respect was one of the most important environmental protection principles, the principle of prevention, according to which any activity in the environment must be designed and realised in such a way to cause minimal change in the environment and to present minimal risk to the environment. More specific requirements regarding cases when an environmental impact assessment needs to be carried out are specified in the Decree on categories of activities for which an environmental impact assessment is mandatory (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, Nos. 66/96, 12/00, 83/02). These activities include spatial activities that are either causing major pollution or are representing greater risks to the environment. The environmental impact assessment is based on the environmental impact report, which must be drawn up in accordance with the Instruction on the methodology of preparing reports on environmental impact (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, No. 70/96). It is necessary that the public is involved in the environmental impact assessment procedure, and when the proposed activity may also affect the territories of other countries, the public must be informed of it in sufficient time. After receipt of such a notice, the affected countries have the possibility to participate in the environmental impact assessment procedure. Under ZVO, the environmental impact assessment was carried out by the issue of the environmental protection consent, which was issued by the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia (ARSO) as a body within the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, and was considered a supplementary act to a permit for an intervention in the environment.
2. Environmental impact assessment and environmental protection consent under the Environmental Protection Act (ZVO-1) (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, No. 41/04)
The new act has radically changed the environmental impact assessment and the issue of environmental protection consent. The most important of these changes is the change saying that the environmental impact assessment should in its entirety fall within the competence of the ARSO, which is also competent for issuing the environmental protection consent, now as an independent decision and not a supplementary decision. The time limit set for issuing a decision is three months, counting from the day of receipt of a complete application, and not counting the 30-day time limit for public participation. The reason for different regulation as compared to ZVO is mainly the implementation of new legislation in the field of spatial planning and construction, and the consistent transposition of EU directives governing environmental impact assessment (Directive 85/337/EEC on assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, Directive 97/11/EEC amending Directive 85/337/EEC, and Directive 2003/35/EEC providing for public participation in respect of the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment, and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice Directives 85/337/EEC and 96/61/EC). The investor of the activity for which the environmental impact assessment is to be carried out may obtain preliminary information on the scope and content of the environmental impact report. Such arrangement is in the interest of the investor, who will ensure that, on the basis of additional proposals of the ARSO and other competent authorities for environmental protection, a report capable of environmental impact assessment is drawn up. The investor must provide, for the purposes of environmental impact assessment, a project for the planned activity, a report on environmental impacts of the project implementation, and revision of the report. The revision can only be performed by a person who has been appointed by the minister of the environment and spatial planning as an environmental expert, and has been entered into the registry of environmental experts. When an activity affecting the environment is likely to cause transborder impacts, the ARSO must ensure that, when issuing environmental protection consents, the domestic public, as well as EU Member States, other countries that are parties to the relevant convention and their publics, are involved in the environmental impact assessment procedure. The collaboration of neighbouring countries that are not only EU Member States but are also parties to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (Espoo Convention), to which the Republic of Slovenia is also a party, has also been arranged. Due to the requirements of the Aarhus Convention, the position of the interested public and non-governmental organisations which have the status of accessory participants in the procedure had to be regulated in a specific way.
3. Transitional period
For the transitional period, ZVO-1 provides for environmental impact assessment procedures and procedures for the issuance of environmental protection consent that started prior to the enforcement of ZVO-1, i.e. prior to 7 May 2004, to be concluded under ZVO. When no application for environmental protection consent has been submitted untill the date of enforcement of this Act for construction works that are considered construction works with environmental impacts under the Construction Act (Zakon o graditvi objektov – ZGO-1), or activities for which environmental impact assessment is mandatory under Article 51 of ZVO-1, the following procedures that have already commenced shall be concluded under the provisions of ZVO: