Environment Impact Assessments still unregulated after 20 years

Malta has no entity that can take legal or regulatory action against consultants who present flawed reports and mislead the Environment and Resources Authority or Planning Authority

There is still on entity or regulator framework that allows for action to be taken against developers submitted flawed EIA repots to the PA or ERA
There is still on entity or regulator framework that allows for action to be taken against developers submitted flawed EIA repots to the PA or ERA

Malta still lacks a national register of approved consultants who carry out environmental impact assessments, 20 years since EIAs became a requirement for major developments.

It means the island has no entity that can take legal or regulatory action against consultants who present flawed reports and mislead the Environment and Resources Authority or the Planning Authority in their decisions on big projects.

The Environment Protection Act states that a registration board composed of a maximum of five members should be appointed by the minister responsible for the environment. The task of this board is to evaluate requests by EIA consultants for inclusion in a national register which would make them eligible to carry out EIAs, audits, monitoring and studies as required by the ERA.

A spokesperson for the ERA said that a registration board required by law to evaluate applications for inclusion in a register of consultants has not been appointed.

EIAs are carried out by environmental consultancy companies who are paid directly by the developer. The consultancy firm then hires experts on the specific issues identified in ‘terms of reference’ issued by the ERA, normally including studies on biodiversity, visual, geological and air quality impacts.

A final report is compiled and submitted to the ERA, which issues a recommendation to the Planning Authority based on the reports.

The registration board envisioned by the law would have the power to revise the register and remove consultants in cases where they submit “sub-standard or deliberately misleading work in an environmental assessment.”

Other reasons for removal from the register include being found guilty by a court of law of a crime committed through fraud, corruption, false declaration, or for not paying annual renewal fee. Anyone participating in a consultant’s role in an EIA without being registered would then be barred from registering or participating in any EIAs for a minimum three-year period.

Draft guidelines for the registration of EIA consultants had been issued in 2009 by then environment minister Mario De Marco, as part of the Malta Environment Planning Authority reform proposals. An EIA “registration and review board” chaired by scientist Kevin Gatt was also appointed but the register of consultants never materialised.

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