Guidance notes

MODUS OPERANDI OF THE
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT SUBCOMMITTEE OF
THE ADVISORY COUNCIL ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Purpose

This paper sets out the modus operandi of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) so as to facilitate smooth proceedings of subcommittee meetings.    The current modus operandi was last updated and endorsed by ACE in July 2009.

Background

2.  ACE is the Government’s principal advisory body on matters relating to environmental protection and nature conservation.  The terms of reference of ACE are –

  1. to keep under review the state of the environment in Hong Kong; and
  2. to advise the Government, through the Secretary for the Environment, on appropriate measures which might be taken to combat pollution of all kinds, and to protect and sustain the environment.

3.  The EIA Subcommittee is set up under ACE to study EIA reports of major development projects.  It also comments on strategic environmental assessment reports of major planning projects.  The terms of reference of the EIA Subcommittee are –

  1. to receive and study EIA reports of major development projects; and
  2. to report on its deliberations and findings and make recommendations to the ACE.

EIA Process

4. ACE and the EIA Subcommittee are involved in three main stages of the EIA process, namely commenting on the project profiles for designated projects, selection of EIA reports for submission to ACE and commenting on selected EIA reports.  In accordance with ETWB Technical Circular (Works) No. 13/2003, the statutory gazetting of a project under the relevant ordinances can be done in parallel with the EIA process.  Separately, consultation with District Councils and other relevant parties may proceed in advance of or in parallel with the submission of EIA reports to the EIA Subcommittee.

Project Profile

5. Under section 5 of the EIA Ordinance, ACE and members of the public may comment on the project profile of a designated project within 14 days of it being advertised.  It is hence not necessary for the EIA Subcommittee to present to the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) the collective view of the EIA Subcommittee on project profiles.  To ensure that comments on project profiles, if any, are given to DEP within the statutory time limit, individual ACE Members would write to DEP directly.  Where necessary, the ACE Member may copy his/her comments to the Chairman and Members for information.

Selection of EIA reports

6. Project proponents of designated projects will have to present their EIA reports to ACE if they are required to submit the reports to the Council.    Members of the EIA Subcommittee will be asked to select those projects which they consider should require a presentation to the EIA Subcommittee by the project proponent.  The selection outcome is for internal planning of the schedule of the EIA Subcommittee and will not be divulged to the project proponent.  Only those projects selected by half or more of EIA Subcommittee Members will be selected.  The project proponent concerned will be notified of the selection outcome only after DEP has decided that the EIA report is ready for public inspection and submission to ACE for advice.

 

7. During the project selection process, if individual EIA Subcommittee Member has special concerns/comments on a certain project, he/she could draw the EIA Subcommittee Chairman’s attention to his/her concerns/comments and the Chairman would consider the need to review the decision on selection of the EIA report for submission to ACE.

 

8. For projects not selected, the project proponent will be required to send the Executive Summary of the EIA report to the EIA Subcommittee.  Members would pass their comments, if any, to DEP directly within the prescribed public inspection period and if necessary, copy his/her comments to the Chairman and Members of the EIA Subcommittee for information.  At the ACE meeting immediately following the issue of the Executive Summaries of the EIA reports, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman will report to ACE about the submission of these Executive Summaries for information of Members and record as projects not selected for discussion.

Meeting Arrangements

9. The EIA Subcommittee will basically meet on a monthly basis.  Meetings will be held when there is submission of EIA report(s) or issue(s) to be discussed.

 

10. To facilitate focused discussion, the EIA Subcommittee will generally consider no more than two EIA reports in each meeting.  EPD will prepare a paper on each EIA report to be submitted to the EIA Subcommittee highlighting the key environmental issues and major findings of the EIA study.  Upon expiry of the report inspection period by the general public, EPD will summarize all public comments received during the period for consideration of the EIA Subcommittee.  The project proponent, where applicable, will provide the EIA Subcommittee with a report on the site selection process of the project, setting out the alternative sites that have been considered and the reasons of the selection of the particular site when such information is not provided in the EIA report.  The paper, the EIA report and the site report, if any, will normally be issued to EIA Subcommittee Members two weeks before the scheduled meeting.  The summary of public comments will also be given to Members before the meeting.  Members will be asked to indicate whether it is necessary for the project proponent to attend the meeting or the report could be considered by circulation.  Project proponents will be informed accordingly before the scheduled meeting.

11. Summary of the public comments will also be provided to non-EIA Subcommittee Members for reference to facilitate their discussion of the EIA Subcommittee’s recommendations at the next ACE meeting before the Council tenders its comments to DEP on the EIA report as provided for under the EIA Ordinance.

12. Members of the EIA Subcommittee may raise questions in writing on an EIA report before the scheduled meeting and the project proponent should provide written response to the Secretariat at least three working days before the meeting.

13. Each discussion item on an EIA report would include a Presentation Session by the project proponent, a Question-and-Answer Session and Internal Discussion Sessions.  The Presentation Session and the Question-and-Answer Session are open up for broadcasting and members of the public can view the sessions real time in the public viewing room.  The EIA Subcommittee would allocate as much time to the Question-and-Answer Session as possible.

14. The presentation by the project proponent should cover, inter alia, the major conclusions and recommendations of the EIA study.  In addition, the project proponent should provide a concise and objective account of the main concerns of the general public and interest groups made known during the EIA study and the public inspection stages, and explain how these concerns are addressed in the EIA study.

 

Criteria for Assessing EIA Reports

15. EIA reports will be assessed by the EIA Subcommittee according to the requirements of the Technical Memorandum on the EIA Process and the study brief of the individual projects issued by DEP.

 

Recommendations to the Full Council

 

16. The EIA Subcommittee can make one of the following recommendations to the full Council –

(i) endorse the EIA report without condition;

(ii) endorse the EIA report with condition(s); or

(iii) reject the EIA report and inform the proponent the right to go to the full Council.

17. If the EIA Subcommittee cannot reach a consensus (i.e. if two or more Members do not agree with the conclusion of the EIA Subcommittee) during the meeting, it may –

(i) ask for a second submission to the Subcommittee; or

(ii) defer the decision to the full Council and highlight issues or reasons for not reaching a consensus for the full Council’s deliberation

18. Other than the scenario in paragraph 17 above or the EIA Subcommittee Chairman considers it appropriate, the recommendations of the EIA Subcommittee will not be discussed in detail in the full Council.

Other Rules that apply to EIA Subcommittee Meetings

19. Apart from the procedures mentioned above, the following rules also apply to EIA Subcommittee meetings –

(i) the quorum for EIA Subcommittee meetings should be half of the number of EIA Subcommittee Members, including the Chairman;

(ii) ACE Members who are not EIA Subcommittee Members may attend EIA Subcommittee meetings and participate in the discussion of the meetings but they shall not vote when votes are taken;

(iii) Council Members and EIA Subcommittee Members should declare direct and indirect interest before deliberating on agenda items so that the EIA Subcommittee Chairman could decide whether they should take part in the discussion or in the case of EIA Subcommittee Members to vote;

(iv) the confirmed minutes of the EIA Subcommittee (with Members’ names deleted) are uploaded on the ACE’s website for public inspection;

(v) the Presentation Session and Question-and-Answer Session of a discussion item on an EIA report at the EIA Subcommittee meeting requiring the attendance of the project proponent team will be opened to the public.  The opening up of these sessions is an administrative arrangement only.  The open meeting arrangements are not applicable to internal discussion sessions of a discussion item on an EIA report and all other sessions of the meetings of the EIA Subcommittee;

(vi) special meetings may be called to consider urgent items.  The EIA Subcommittee will consider each case individually should there be requests for direct submissions to the full Council;

(vii) there will not be a limit on the number of professionals/experts to be invited to each EIA Subcommittee meeting for items requiring their assistance.  In these cases and where votes are taken, these professionals/experts shall not vote; and

(viii) to facilitate effective deliberation at meetings of the EIA Subcommittee, the EIA Subcommittee may appoint Members to advise the EIA Subcommittee on specific subject areas of EIA reports.  The appointed Members would consider the assigned subjects of an EIA report, and seek advice from the relevant authorities designated under the EIAO as necessary before EIA Subcommittee meetings.

20. The revised modus operandi of the EIA Subcommittee has taken effect in April 2013 upon endorsement of ACE.

EIA Subcommittee Secretariat

April 2013
 

 




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Last revision date: 18 April 2011