ÖKOBÜRO study shows: Efficient environmental procedures are possible with early planning and participation

A study conducted by ÖKOBÜRO examines successful environmental procedures and identifies six key factors for their effectiveness. The study focuses on three positive examples of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures: APG-Weinviertelleitung in Lower Austria, the Potzneusiedl wind farm extension in Burgenland, and S10 Mühlviertler Schnellstraße Nord in Upper Austria. The success factors were identified in 14 interviews with authorities, project applicants, environmental ombudspersons, and environmental organizations. They include political support, early planning, early public involvement, sufficient resources for authorities, and effective procedural management. The study emphasizes the importance of early planning as the most frequently mentioned success factor. Effective early planning ensures high-quality project applications and reduces conflicts during the procedure, leading to faster implementation. The Federal State Burgenland, for example, achieved an average permit procedure duration of 6.8 months for wind power plants, with only one appeal within 20 years. The most important elements of a successful procedure also include early and efficient public participation. The round table model, involving all relevant stakeholders, promotes effective coordination and avoids contradictions regarding the recommendations for the project application while generating synergies. Based on the study's findings and further discussions, ÖKOBÜRO will develop a guide for good environmental procedures, providing recommendations to anchor the identified success factors in procedural practice. Additionally, policymakers are urged to ensure a supportive framework and address the lack of data in the area of biodiversity, which slows down the preparation of the project application and causes unnecessary delays.

Statements on removal ordinances

An increasing number of Austrian states are issuing ordinances that regulate the killing of strictly protected species, such as wolves, otters and beavers: Most recently, for example, Lower Austria has extended both the Otter Ordinance and the Beaver Ordinance by additional removal periods. In Upper Austria, a new wolf management ordinance has entered into force. Salzburg and Styria have just recently announced that they will issue similar ordinances regulating wolves. In Carinthia, four (!) individuals of this protected species have been shot on the basis of the Carinthian Wolf Ordinance.

From a legal point of view, it is particularly problematic that environmental organizations have no legal protection against these regulations, which violate European law (Art 9 Aarhus Convention). According to the Aarhus Convention, environmental organizations should also be effectively involved in species protection exemption procedures - an assessment procedure, as recently carried out in Lower and Upper Austria, does not meet the requirements of the Aarhus Convention (Art 6 Aarhus Convention) for effective participation. In addition, the lack of a case-by-case assessment violates the Fauna Flora Habitat Directive.

Together with WWF Austria, ÖKOBÜRO has sent a number of statements on these ordinances to the authorities.