January 24 2005
The June 1998 General Environmental Law required that all projects with a potential impact on the environment be preceded by an environmental impact assessment (EIA). However, regulations had to be approved so that the law could be fully implemented.
On October 10 2000 the Council of Ministers approved Decree 39/00, which covered environmental impact assessments to be carried out by the oil industry in relation to petroleum activities performed either onshore or offshore Angola.
Decree 51/04 has now established the rules and procedures to be complied with for environmental impact assessments on all public and private projects.
Pursuant to Decree 51/04, all agricultural, forestry, industrial, commercial, housing, tourism and infrastructure projects which, by their nature, scope or location, may have an impact on the environment will now have to undergo an environmental impact study in order to be licensed by the relevant authorities.
The projects subject to an EIA procedure are listed in an annex to Decree 51/04. This new regulation has brought about a significant change in the approval process for energy-related projects, as the majority of the projects listed in the annex fall under this qualification, including:
The environmental impact study must be submitted to the Ministry of Urbanism and Environment at the beginning of the energy project's licensing procedure. The study must address a number of issues listed in Decree 51/04 and contain notably:
After receiving the environmental impact study, the ministry must carry out a public consultation for a period of between five and 10 days. For the purposes of this public consultation, the ministry will release a report setting out in layman's terms the main effects which the energy project may have on the environment, and the measures which are to be taken to avoid or reduce its environmental impact. At the end of the consultation, the ministry will produce a report describing how the consultation was carried out, the level of public participation and the conclusions which the ministry has drawn.
The ministry has 30 days from the submission of the environmental impact study to remit its opinion and the report on the public consultation to the licensing body. Otherwise, the ministry is deemed to have issued a favourable opinion. The ministry's opinion is binding on the licensing body. If a negative opinion is issued, the licensing body will be barred from licensing the project.
The EIA process only applies to future energy projects. However, existing projects
must also assess their impact on the environment. Decree 51/04 provides that
environmental audits may be conducted on ongoing projects up to July 23 2005
by specialized bodies, licensed by the ministry. Thereafter, the projects' promoters
will have to perform and present an environmental impact study to assess the
projects past and future environmental impact.
With the approval of Decree 51/04, a number of energy-related projects can no longer be licensed without environmental clearance, and in 2005 a number of ongoing projects may have to measure their impact on the environment.
For further information on this topic please contact Alberto Galhardo Simões at Miranda, Correia, Amendoeira & Associados' Lisbon office by telephone (+351 21 781 4800) or by fax (+351 21 781 4802) or by email (Alberto.GalhardoSimoes@mirandalawfirm.com).
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Alberto Galhardo Simões