A discussion is under way about the rules on environmental impact assessments (EIA). This discussion is sure to influence the law in this area.

EIAs are now governed by Act no. 100/2001 Coll., on Environmental Impact Assessment and the Amendment of Certain Related Acts, as amended (the “Act”). More rules about specific EIA issues can be found in Act no. 183/2006 Coll., on Town and State Planning and the Building Code, as amended (the “Building Code”). 

Sections 10 (3) and (4) are controversial provisions of the Act. They stipulate that an EIA statement should solely be seen an expert opinion on which the binding decision in follow-up proceedings (e.g. building permit) is based. Section 23 (14) of the Act also rules out applying Act no. 500/2004 Coll., the Administrative Proceedings Act, as amended, to the EIA process. This means that a building authority can overrule an EIA statement if it specifies a reason why the EIA statement could not be applied in its decision. Lawyers assessing an EIA statement must, thus, also review the binding follow-up decision. 

Section 91 of the Building Code present an additional problem since it couples the zoning permit process with the EIA process under the Act. No environmental impact opinion is issued in this joint process. (Under the Act, the relevant EIA authority prepares this opinion at the investor's expense; it serves as peer review for the investor’s own documentation about the project’s environmental impact.) The joint process departs from the Act since it calls for the provision of an EIA statement based solely on the investor's documentation of the environmental impact. Experience shows omitting the environmental impact opinion in this way does not save any time. 

For the joint process, the EIA authority must issue the EIA statement in the 30 days after the required environmental impact documents are submitted. If the statement is not dispensed by this deadline, the building authority may demand its release within an additional grace period. If the EIA authority does not provide the statement in that grace period, it is understood to endorse the project.

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