Scoping in environmental assessment
By Thomas Fischer and John Phylip-Jones This chapter is divided into six sub-sections. First, an introduction is provided on what environmental assessment scoping is. Secondly, the purpose of scoping is explained. Thirdly, a summary of the key objectives, guiding principles, elements, multi-dimensional aspects and overall requirements for effective EA scoping is provided. Fourthly, the different ways for undertaking scoping are introduced and the role of consultation and public involvement is discussed. Fifthly, criteria of good practice, as well as scoping methods and techniques are listed. Finally, conclusions are drawn. 13.1 INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT (EA) SCOPING? Scoping is the Environmental Assessment (EA) stage in policy, plan, programme and project making at which issues, impacts and preliminary alternatives are determined that should be addressed at subsequent stages (see Figure 13.1). It is a systematic exercise that establishes the boundaries and Terms of Reference (ToR) for the EA. A quality scoping study reduces the risk of including inappropriate components or excluding components which should be addressed in an environmental assessment. Whilst scoping has been defined, using many different terms, there is general agreement on what scoping seeks to achieve. The definition adopted in recent guidance on project EIA, developed for the European Commission, sets out the meaning of scoping in its broadest sense as follows: “Scoping is the process of determining the content and extent of the matters which should be covered in the environmental information to be submitted to a competent authority for projects which are subject to EIA.” (European Commission, 2001) Scoping relates to addressing the impacts and issues to be studied during the environmental assessment process and, in addition, covered within the report submitted as part of that process. An environmental report will document both, the project, programme, plan or policy and the environment in which it is to be located, together with descriptions and assessments of the likely consequences of development on various environmental parameters. Figure 13.1: Generic stages of environmental assessment (EA)
Scoping involves decisions concerning what is likely to be significant impacts of a particular policy, plan, programme or project, and what alternatives should be addressed (Wood, 2003; Weston, 2000; Glasson et al, 1999). There are, therefore, elements of both, identification and prioritisation within scoping. Furthermore, within scoping, there is a need to engage in the debate as to how significance might be defined. Typically, scoping begins after the completion of the screening stage. However, there may also be some overlaps. Essentially, scoping takes forward the preliminary determination of significance made in screening to the next stage of resolution – determining what issues and impacts require further study. In doing so, scoping places limits on the information to be gathered and analysed in an EA and helps to focus the approach to be taken.
In the early years of EA, little attention was given to scoping, resulting in a lack of focus in most EA reports. This lack of focus made the EA process slower, less efficient and less effective than might otherwise have been the case. In response, for the first time in 1978, the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued regulations, establishing "scoping" as a formal requirement for EAs. In introducing EA systems into legislation, the European Union, in line with many other jurisdictions, initially omitted scoping as a specific requirement in the EIA Directive 85/337/EEC. However, successive five-year reviews undertaken in 1992 and 1997 recommended the introduction of scoping as a means to strengthen its effectiveness. Subsequently, an amendment to the Directive (97/11/EC) introduced scoping as a non-mandatory...