Status in 2016: The renewed Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure (EIA Act) came into force on the 16th of May 2017. Thanks to the new Act, the assessment of environmental impacts has been simplified, and the assessment of significant environmental impacts was emphasised.
Before initiating an EIA, preliminary negotiations may be held by the contact authority of the EIA, other authorities and the operator responsible for the project. In this way all the EIAs required during the planning phase can be accounted for and scheduled wisely. By virtue of the new law, the general EIA and the assessment of environmental impacts of the project plan may be conducted as a part of the same procedure. The ELY centre ensures the sufficiency of the assessment as a neutral inspector of the collaborative assessment. In addition, the Natura assessment stipulated by the Nature Conservation Act was combined with the EIA.
The amendment is expected to improve the effectivity of the EIA procedure, as the assessment focuses on significant environmental impacts: people, nature, the built environment and natural resources. The operator is still responsible for the assessment of impacts, but the role of the contact authority has been emphasised, as it expresses its own view of the EIA results. The effectivity of EIA has also been improved by requesting the licencing authority to indicate how it has considered the results of the EIA and how the significant impacts are alleviated or removed altogether.
In the autumn of 2016, a Government Decree on Sea Planning came into force. According to this, the regional councils should devise and accept regional plans of the sea by the end of March 2021. The plans are devised for three different sea regions. The aim of the plans is to promote aquatic nature conservation in harmony with commercial activities.
The conservation of biodiversity is included as a part of the EIAs conducted when planning traffic routes (roads, railways, waterways). The Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment (VELMU) has been completed after 12 years of inventories, and the VELMU data has been saved in an open access map portal.