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Evaluation of the German Act on Environmental Impact Assessment

Nils Bedke, Jaqui Dopfer, Simone Kellert and Detlef Kober

elni Review 2007, Issue 1,  pp. 25-29.

The German Federal Act on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA Act) of 1990 was comprehensively amended and broadened in 2001. Since the summer of 2005, a revised form of the Act has been in force. The precautionary and integrative approach of the German EIA Act initially awoke high expectations in the academic community. However, after first practical experiences had been gained, increasingly critical views were voiced. 
Against this background as well as induced by research activities in Germany and in neighbouring countries, a research project was commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency (funded by means of the federal environmental research plan). The intention of the analysis is to determine and evaluate the effects of the EIA on the implementation and realisation of approval procedures, to identify weak points as well as to develop improved instruments for an effective and efficient implementation. Generally speaking, the following research questions are investigated: What benefits and costs are associated with EIA? What deficiencies and positive effects are identifiable with regard to specific phases of the EIA? What incentives are available for the project participants to actually fulfil the legal requirements of the EIA? What modifications can be recommended with respect to the legal provisions and/or actual implementation?
The project is divided into two stages: stage 1 provided a feasibility study which was tendered in September 2006 along with the data collection concept for the EIA evaluation. Key points of this stage are presented in this article. In stage 2, the evaluation of the German EIA Act is carried out, which encompasses not only an analysis of numerous EIA documents, but also the associated actors such as employees of authorities, environmental associations and applicants.

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