Public hearings for environmental impact assessment in Russia - changes in legislation and practice of performance 2021-2022

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The article is dedicated to the issues of changing in the legislation of the Russian Federation on environmental impact assessment in terms of informing the public about new projects. Significant changes that have occurred in the practices and requirements of legislation, including one connected with the COVID-19 pandemic, have made changes, among other things, in the ways of informing the public - it has become possible to hold public discussions and inform the public remotely. With a low level of interest of the general public in the results of the impact assessment, the remote format of public discussions did not make fundamental changes. The main changes of 2021-2022 that occurred in the part of public discussions are presented in the Order of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation No. 999 dated December 1, 2020 “On approval of requirements for environmental impact assessment materials”, and the permissibility of using a remote format for public discussions is given in the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 440 of April 3, 2020 “On the Extension of Permits and Other Features in Relation to Permitting Activities in 2020-2022”.

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Informing the public about new projects being implemented is carried out in almost all countries of the world, including in the countries of the near abroad, for example in Belarus [1]. In Russia, the requirements for public information are also being implemented [2; 3], and the features of conducting public discussions for various industries, for example, oil and gas [4], energy industry [5], hunting [6], have already been developed. Providing access to information about the impact of new enterprises on various components of the environment has been studied by many Russian scientists [7-9], including in terms of improving the procedure of public discussions [10; 11], the time and way of public awareness is not limited to public discussions [12] Let's consider the current practice of conducting public discussions, as well as the changes that have occurred in connection with the large-scale revision and cancellation of many regulatory legal acts, in other words, the “regulatory guillotine”. The purpose of the implementation of the “regulatory guillotine” is a total revision of mandatory requirements, according to which regulations and the mandatory requirements contained in them should be revised with the broad participation of the business and expert communities. The main task of the "guillotine" is to create a new system of clear and clear requirements for business entities in the areas of regulation, to remove excessive administrative burden on business entities, to reduce the risks of harm (damage) to protected values. In 2020, by the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of December 31, 2020 No. 2467 “On Approval of the List of Regulatory Legal Acts and Groups of Regulatory Legal Acts of the Government of the Russian Federation, Regulatory Legal Acts, Separate Provisions of Regulatory Legal Acts and Groups of Regulatory Legal Acts of Federal Executive Authorities, Legal Acts, Separate Provisions of Legal Acts, Groups of Legal Acts of Executive and Executive Bodies the state authorities of the RSFSR and the USSR, decisions of the State Commission on Radio Frequencies containing mandatory requirements for which the provisions of Parts 1 do not apply, 2 and 3 of Article 15 of the Federal Law “On Mandatory Requirements in the Russian Federation” established a list of regulations that will expire in 2021. Thus, the current order of the State Committee of Ecology of Russia dated 16.05.2000 No. 372 “On approval of the Regulation on the Assessment of the Impact of planned Economic and Other Activities on the Environment in the Russian Federation” (hereinafter referred to as the Regulation on EIA No. 372), regulating the procedure of EIA and public discussions, within the framework of the “regulatory guillotine” was- is known to have lost its power. Instead of the above-mentioned regulatory act, the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation has issued a new by-law replacing the old requirements: Order of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation No. 999 dated 01.12.2020 “On Approval of Requirements for Environmental Impact Assessment Materials” (hereinafter referred to as the Requirements for EIA). Registered with the Ministry of Justice on April 20, 2021. Registration Number 63186. The text of the order is published on the “Official Internet portal of legal Information” ( April 21, 2021 N 0001202104210002. This regulatory act came into force on September 1, 2021. The validity period is set until 2027. And so, what are the main distinguishing features of the “old” and “new” requirements? In particular, the Requirements for the EIA define in detail the procedure for notification of public discussions. Information about the notification of a public discussion of the terms of reference for conducting an environmental impact assessment and/or notification of public discussions of preliminary environmental impact assessment materials are posted on the official websites of state authorities, local governments, the customer (contractor). In the new document (Requirements for EIA), there are no clear definitions of the concepts of “public discussions” and “public hearings”. However, it can be said for sure that public discussions have remained an integral part of the complex of measures aimed at informing citizens and legal entities about the planned (planned) economic and other activities and its possible impact on the environment, in order to ensure the participation of all interested persons (including citizens, public organizations-organizations (associations), representatives of state authorities, local self-government bodies), identification of public preferences and their consideration in the process of environmental impact assessment. Based on the new Requirements for EIA, public discussions also include informing and collecting comments and suggestions from the interested public. The following forms of information are established by the requirements for the EIA: simple information, a survey, public hearings and other forms conducted within the framework of public discussions. As practice shows, the most common and open way of informing is public hearings, which are a meeting with the public of representatives of the customer / contractor and developers with the mandatory participation of representatives of the relevant local government body(s). During public hearings, reports on planned activities are presented to the public. All questions, comments and suggestions of the public and participants expressed during the public hearings are recorded in the minutes of the hearings. The protocol is signed by representatives of the relevant local government body, the customer/developer/contractor, public. At the same time, due to restrictive measures related, for example, to the COVID-19 coronavirus infection, it is not always possible to hold mass events in person. In this case, it is allowed to hold public hearings using means of remote interaction. The main document regulating the conduct of public discussions in a remote format is the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of April 3, 2020 No. 440 “On the extension of permits and other features in relation to licensing activities in 2020-2022”. As before, the result of public discussions is the protocol of public discussions or the protocol of public hearings (surveys), logs of registration (accounting) of comments and suggestions (opinions) of the public (questionnaires, etc.), documented procedure for public discussions (hearings), copies of notifications of public - public discussions. The specified documentation is included in the EIA materials. The documents submitted for public discussion are: draft Terms of Reference (hereinafter referred to as the ToR) (if the customer decides to prepare the draft ToR) for environmental impact assessment (hereinafter referred to as the EIA), preliminary EIA materials or materials on the object of state environmental expertise (hereinafter referred to as the SEE), including preliminary EIA materials, and other materials that are the subject of the SEE. The requirements for the composition and content of the EIA materials, depending on the specifics of the planned activity, are also set out in clause 7.13 of the EIA Requirements. It should be noted that despite the generally significant changes, the principles of informing the public have remained the same, but it is not clear whether it will be possible to hold public discussions in a remote format after December 31, 2022. The possibility of conducting public discussions remotely does not affect the active participation of the interested community, but reduces the expenses.

About the authors

Tatyana N. Ledashcheva

RUDN University

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6935-4347

Cand. Sc. Math., Docent, Department of Environmental Security and Product Quality Management, Institute of Environmental Engineering

6 Miklukho-Maklaya St, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

Tatyana Yu. Kukhtina

Environmental Consulting Company FRECOM Ltd

Office 407 bldg 1, 18 Malaya Pirogovskaya St, Moscow, 119435, Russian Federation

Vladimir E. Pinaev

RUDN University

ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8943-5462

Cand. Sc. Econ., Docent, Department of Environmental Security and Product Quality Management, Institute of Environmental Engineering

6 Miklukho-Maklaya St, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation


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Copyright (c) 2022 Ledashcheva T.N., Kukhtina T.Y., Pinaev V.E.

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