From Bad to Worse: Panama's Proposed EIA Rules Cripples Development Oversight
Once again the government of Panama is attempting to weaken the processes for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). On August 5, the Official Gazette published a decree amending the rules. The proposed changes weaken public access to information and participation, significantly compromise the evaluation procedures, and shorten the length of time for citizens and companies to respond.
EIA tools are used by decision-makers around the world, EIA is central for smart environmental management. Public participation in EIA ensures each development’s potential impact is considered, from social to environmental; an array of possible solutions to development issues and implementing environmentally-sensitive plans. Panama’s new rules significantly weaken the public participation oversight of EIA, threatening environmentally- and socially disastrous development.
Joana Abergo at the Center for Environmental Advocacy (CIAM) provides a brief analysis of the proposed regulations.Proposed regulations would erode oversight of all types of projects:
- Environmental authorities are no longer involved in choosing which type of media is better for a particular project to announce time and place of public consultation.
- Elimination of informative public meetings.
- Environmental authorities no longer required to respond to public comments.
- The EIA study will be rejected if the company does not respond to report within 15 days (previously 30 days).
- Amendment seeks to make public consultation optional.
The three project categories in Panama have their requirements minimized in the proposed regulations.
Category I EIA studies required for activities with smaller impact on environment.
Category II EIA studies required or activities with moderate impact on environment.
Category III EIA studies required for activities with significant impact on environment.
Major changes for each project category in the proposed regulation include, but are not limited to:
- Studies must be admitted within 3 days (previously 5 days)
- Studies must be admitted within 5 days
- Evaluation must be completed within 20 days (previously 35 days)
- Public comment, including those from other institutions, must be received within 8 days (previously 15 days)
- Institutions comments on additional information submitted by the company must be made within 5 days (previously 8 days)
- Information clarification requests must be submitted within 2 days (previously 3 days)
- No mention of timeframe in which study must be completed.
- Evaluation must be completed within 40 days (previously 55 days)
- Public comment from individuals must be received within 10 days, other institutions must submit comments within 12 days (previously 20 days for both individuals and institutions)
- Institutions comments on additional information submitted by the company must be made within 8 days (previously 12 days)
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