Environmental Impact Assessment

Abstract

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a systematic process designed to identify and predict the potential impacts of human activity on the biophysical and human environment. It also functions as an environmental management tool to identify measures to avoid, mitigate or compensate for those effects. EIA is intended to be an iterative process to follow‐up to projects postimplementation to determine actual environmental outcomes, interpret and communicate information about those outcomes and investigate opportunities for improved project environmental performance. Originating from the United States’ National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, EIA is now amongst the most successful and widely practiced environmental management tools in the world.

Key Concepts:

  • EIA is an aid to decision making through which concerns about the potential environmental consequences of proposed projects are assessed before those projects become a reality.

  • Screening in EIA ensures that assessments are done when needed and not done when not needed.

  • Scope is essential to good EIA and the goal is to focus on a select set of environmental components that are deemed important from scientific, public or regulatory perspectives and are likely to be adversely affected by the project.

  • The underlying intent of EIA is to allow project proponents, managers and decision makers to enhance the benefits of proposed development projects and to mitigate potentially adverse impacts to the point of acceptability.

  • EIA must be applied early in the development planning processes if it is to be influential in project design and decision making.

  • Information gained in EIA follow‐up studies, after the project is implemented, provides feedback to improve predictions and mitigation and management programmes, and an opportunity to learn for subsequent project proposals.

Keywords: environmental impact assessment; baseline studies; impact prediction; mitigation and management of impacts; cumulative environmental effects; follow‐up studies

Figure 1.

Generic environmental impact assessment process.

close

References

Alberta‐Pacific EIA Review Board (1990) The Proposed Alberta‐Pacific Pulp Mill. Report of the EIA Board. Edmonton, Canada: Alberta Environment.

André P, Enserink B, Connor D and Croal P (2006) Public Participation International Best Practice Principles. Special Publication Series 4. Fargo, ND: IAIA.

Arts J, Caldwell P and Morrison‐Saunders A (2001) Environmental impact assessment follow‐up: good practice and future directions. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 19(3): 175–185.

Carson R (1962) Silent Spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Cashmore M (2004) The role of science in environmental impact assessment: process and procedure versus purpose in the development of theory. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 24: 403–426.

Cashmore M, Richardson T, Hilding‐Rydevik T and Emmelin L (2010) Evaluating the effectiveness of impact assessment instruments: theorising the nature and implications of their political constitution. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 30: 371–379.

CIPM Yangtze Joint Venture (1988) Three Gorges Feasibility Project, vols 1–11. Canadian International Development Agency and World Bank.

Diduck AP and Sinclair AJ (2002) Public participation in environmental assessment: the case of the nonparticipant. Environmental Management 29(4): 578–588.

Duffy P (2004) Agriculture, forestry and fisheries: the orphans of environmental impact assessment. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 22(3): 175–176.

Gibson RB (2002) From Wreck Cove to Voisey's Bay: the evolution of federal environmental assessment in Canada. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 20: 151–159.

Glasson J, Therivel R and Chadwick A (1999) Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment: Principles and Procedures, Process, Practice and Prospects, 2nd edn. London: University College London Press.

Hanna K (2005) Environmental Impact Assessment: Practice and Participation. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.

Harrop DO and Nixon AJ (1999) Environmental Assessment in Practice. Routledge Environmental Management Series. London: Routledge.

Hickey GM, Brunet N and Allan N (2010) A constant comparison of the environmental assessment legislation in Canada. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 12(3): 315–329.

IAIA (2003) Social Impact Assessment International Principles. Special Publication Series No. 2. Fargo, ND: IAIA.

IAIA and IEA (1999) Principles of Environmental Impact Assessment Best Practice. Fargo, ND: IAIA.

Lawrence D (2007) Impact significance determination: pushing the boundaries. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 27(8): 770–778.

Morris P and Therivel R (2001) Methods of Environmental Impact Assessment, 2nd edn. London: Taylor and Francis Group.

Morrison‐Saunders A and Bailey J (1999) Exploring the EIA/environmental management relationship. Environmental Management 24(3): 281–295.

Morrow B and Morrow P (1997) Into the chasm. Equinox 95: 28–43.

Noble BF (2004) Integrating strategic environmental assessment with industry planning: a case study of the Pasquai‐Porcupine Forest Management Plan, Saskatchewan, Canada. Environmental Management 33(3): 401–411.

Noble BF (2010) Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment: A Guide to Principles and Practice, 2nd edn. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.

Owens S, Rayner T and Bina O (2004) New agendas for appraisal: reflections on theory, practice, and research. Environment and Planning A 36: 1943–1959.

Sadler B (1996) International Study of the Effectiveness of Environmental Impact Assessment: Final Report: Environmental Assessment in a Changing World: Evaluating Practice to Improve Performance. Hull, QC: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Seitz NE, Westbrook CJ and Noble BF (2011) Bringing science into river systems cumulative effects assessment practice. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 31: 180–186.

Storey K and Noble B (2004) Toward Increasing the Utility of Follow‐up in Canadian EA: A Review of Concepts, Requirements and Experience. Report Prepared for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Hull, QC: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

UNEP (1987) Environmental Impact Assessment. Decision 14/25 of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program.

Wood C (1995) Environmental Impact Assessment: A Comparative Review. London: Longman Scientific and Technical.

Further Reading

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. http://www.ceaa.gc.ca. Resources for Environmental Assessment Professionals.

Dalal‐Clayton B and Sadler B (2005) Strategic Environmental Assessment: A Sourcebook and Reference Guide to International Experience. London, UK: Earthscan.

Hegman G, Cocklin C, Creasey R et al. (1999) Cumulative Effects Assessment Practitioners Guide. Hull, QC: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

International Association for Impact Assessment. http://www.iaia.org. Principles of Environmental Assessment Best Practice.

Noble BF, Hill M and Neilsen J (2011) Environmental assessment framework for identifying and mitigating the effects of linear development to wetlands. Landscape and Urban Planning 99: 133–140.

Petts J (ed.) (1999) Handbook of Environmental Impact Assessment, vol. 2. Oxford: Blackwell Science.

Schindler DW and Donahue WF (2006) An impending water crisis in Canada's Western prairie provinces. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 103: 7210–7216.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) (1998) Environmental Impact Assessment: Basic Procedures for Developing Countries. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations.

United States Council on Environmental Quality. http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/. About the Council on Environmental Quality.

World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org. Environmental Assessment Sourcebook.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Noble, Bram F(Sep 2011) Environmental Impact Assessment. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003253.pub2]