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Draft bill details changes in environmental approval for investment projects

A draft bill scheduled to be tabled in Parliament in March will drastically simplify and accelerate the environmental approval of business investments, the Environmental and Energy Ministry said.
The draft outline was presented to the prime minister on Monday past, with the details released later.

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Some of the provisions include the following:
- Introduction of a deadline for the issue of an environment license ("Decision of Approval of Environmental Terms," or AEPO, which will follow an environmental assessment report). If the deadline passes, the project will be considered approved. Forests, water resources and archaeological heritage will be protected at all times, however.
- Private-sector assessors, who will provide the AEPO reviews and assessments.
- The validity of environmental terms will last for 15 years instead of the current 10. Companies providing an EU-instituted Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) will be excused from the obligation to renew their AEPO. The purpose is to reduce bureaucracy, as ministry data shows that during 2012-2017 it issued 3,512 licenses for new projects and 5,089 for renewals or amended ones. The regulation is also hoped will reduce the current 120-day review process to nearly 70 days.
Overall, the bill classifies projects under three categories, based on environmental impact: A1 for heavy impact; A2 for significant impact; and B for local and non-significant impact. Environmental impact reports and the AEPO license will be required for projects A1 and A2. The reclassification of some projects to category B - mainly due to technological advances that do not impact the environment as in the past - is expected to also help reduce bureaucracy, the ministry said.

Hatzidakis

In statements to the newspaper "Parapolitika" on Saturday, Environment & Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said of the bill's regulations, "Under these initiatives, we are combining environmental protection with an effort to push Greece ahead in development, without fixations and dogmatism."