What on Earth are EIAs?
Confused by Consultants? Flummoxed by Fracking Applications? It is all pretty overwhelming and we are all learning as we go. Most of us have heard about EIAs and IAPs only recently, so no wonder we are a bit flustered.
When a person or company wants to develop land, they need to follow a set process before they get authorization to do so. This should mean that developments that are inappropriate to an area or particular site, are not allowed to proceed.
There are environmental laws which govern how development can be carried out on the land. The law lists activities which could potentially cause environmental impacts – and Environmental Authorization must be obtained from government before such activities can be undertaken. An EIA is the process of application for Environmental Authorization and often includes, along with environmental issues, social and community issues too.
Lots of acronyms are used in the various documents. Here is an easy guide:
- EAP – Environmental Assessment Practitioner – consultant conducting the EIA process.
- EIA – Environmental Impact Assessment
- BID – Background Information Document
- EIR – Environmental Impact Report, 2nd phase of Full EIA process.
- PASA -Petroleum Agency of South Africa
- NEMA – National Environmental Management Act
- IAP – Interested and Affected Parties General public and government stakeholders, such as Department of Water and Sanitation, municipalities.
An EIA should look at all the potential environmental issues of a proposed development (water, heritage, visual, traffic etc), including social. It should be a comprehensive report that lists potential impacts, details about how these impacts can be mitigated (avoided / reduced) and make recommendations on how the development should proceed if permission is granted. The EIA report is submitted to government to make a decision whether or not to grant Environmental Authorization.
EIA consultants are employed by the developer to conduct this assessment. There are 2 types of EIAs : Basic Assessments and Scoping and Full EIAs.
Which type of EIA is undertaken is determined by the activities / nature of the development / sensitivity of the receiving environment.
1) Basic Assessment – for smaller, less impacting developments.
2) Scoping and Full EIA – for large-scale developments.
The applications for oil and gas exploration, are undergoing a Scoping and Full EIA. This table illustrates who does what when during the Scoping Phase:
|Public participation process:
Undertake preliminary studies / mapping
Circulate draft Scoping Report for 30 days
Submit application form to PASA
Submit final Scoping Report to PASA
|Register as an IAP
Submit queries / concerns / requests for further
information to EAP
Note the deadline for the draft Scoping Report, and submit comments on time.
|Upon receipt of Final Scoping Report, PASA will make decision on way forward:
Approve / Reject / Ask for further information.
If accept, then EIA process moves to EIR phase.
The EIA process is made up of a number of specific legislated steps and time frames, as set out in NEMA. The EIR phase follows this
|Appoint specialists to provide detailed impact assessments:
Circulate draft EIR for 30 days
Submit Final EIR Report to PASA
|Continue to submit queries / concerns / requests for further information to EAP
Note the deadline for the Final EIR, submit comments on time.
Once PASA decision – opportunity to APPEAL. More information will be provided.
|Upon receipt of Final EIR, PASA will make decision on Environmental Authorization:
Approve / Reject.
Being a legal process, it is important to note the stipulated periods wherein activities must be carried out by various parties – including the EAP, competent authority (i.e. PASA) and IAPs.
Do join us for an informative evening on 16 August to learn from the experts how us ordinary folk can participate and shape our community development.
“This is no time to assume that someone else will be fighting fracking on your behalf. We are all in this together and will all be affected. Everyone needs to participate in whatever way they can to ensure that our livelihoods, communities, water resources and environment are not ruined forever.” Judy Bell Environmental Consultant and Frack Free SA volunteer.