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Title: The quality of Portuguese Environmental Impact Studies: The case of small hydropower projects

Abstract

In most Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) systems environmental authorities can stop an EIA process by refusing the respective EIA Report, on the grounds of technical or methodological insufficiencies identified in the review procedure. However, often times, it cannot be taken for granted that, once an EIA Report is formally accepted, as part of an EIA process, its quality standard is, consistently, of a satisfactory level. This paper summarises the results of a one-year research project aimed at assessing the quality of EIA studies carried out for small hydropower plants in Portugal. An extensive survey was carried out to analyse all EIA Reports that were the basis of successful EIA processes involving this kind of small scale projects, under the old and the new national EIA legislation, that is, over the last two decades. Often times unnoticeable to the general public and the media, located in isolated areas upstream secondary rivers, these projects are likely to generate some significant environmental impacts, in particular on the aesthetics value and character of local landscapes and on pristine ecological habitats. And yet, they are usually regarded as environmental friendly projects designed to produce emission free energy. The design of the evaluation criteria benefited frommore » the literature review on similar research projects carried out in other EU countries. The evaluation exercise revealed a number of technical and methodological weaknesses in a significant percentage of cases. A set of simple and clear cut recommendations is proposed twofold: to improve the current standard of EIA practice and to strengthen the role of the so called EIA Commissions, at the crucial review stage of the EIA process.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3]
  1. CITTA - Research Centre for Territory, Transports and Environment, University of Oporto, Faculty of Engineering, Rua Roberto Frias, 4200-465 Oporto (Portugal). E-mail: pcpinho@fe.up.pt
  2. CEHRA - Centre for Hydraulics, Environment and Water Resources, University of Oporto, Faculty of Engineering, Rua Roberto Frias, 4200-465 Oporto (Portugal). E-mail: rmaia@fe.up.pt
  3. CITTA - Research Centre for Territory, Transports and Environment, University of Oporto, Faculty of Engineering, Rua Roberto Frias, 4200-465 Oporto (Portugal). E-mail: anamonterroso@yahoo.com
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
20972041
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Impact Assessment Review; Journal Volume: 27; Journal Issue: 3; Other Information: DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2006.10.005; PII: S0195-9255(06)00127-2; Copyright (c) 2006 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, All rights reserved; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
13 HYDRO ENERGY; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENTS; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS; ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION; HYDROELECTRIC POWER; HYDROELECTRIC POWER PLANTS; REVIEWS

Citation Formats

Pinho, Paulo, Maia, Rodrigo, and Monterroso, Ana. The quality of Portuguese Environmental Impact Studies: The case of small hydropower projects. United States: N. p., 2007. Web. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2006.10.005.
Pinho, Paulo, Maia, Rodrigo, & Monterroso, Ana. The quality of Portuguese Environmental Impact Studies: The case of small hydropower projects. United States. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2006.10.005.
Pinho, Paulo, Maia, Rodrigo, and Monterroso, Ana. Sun . "The quality of Portuguese Environmental Impact Studies: The case of small hydropower projects". United States. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2006.10.005.
@article{osti_20972041,
title = {The quality of Portuguese Environmental Impact Studies: The case of small hydropower projects},
author = {Pinho, Paulo and Maia, Rodrigo and Monterroso, Ana},
abstractNote = {In most Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) systems environmental authorities can stop an EIA process by refusing the respective EIA Report, on the grounds of technical or methodological insufficiencies identified in the review procedure. However, often times, it cannot be taken for granted that, once an EIA Report is formally accepted, as part of an EIA process, its quality standard is, consistently, of a satisfactory level. This paper summarises the results of a one-year research project aimed at assessing the quality of EIA studies carried out for small hydropower plants in Portugal. An extensive survey was carried out to analyse all EIA Reports that were the basis of successful EIA processes involving this kind of small scale projects, under the old and the new national EIA legislation, that is, over the last two decades. Often times unnoticeable to the general public and the media, located in isolated areas upstream secondary rivers, these projects are likely to generate some significant environmental impacts, in particular on the aesthetics value and character of local landscapes and on pristine ecological habitats. And yet, they are usually regarded as environmental friendly projects designed to produce emission free energy. The design of the evaluation criteria benefited from the literature review on similar research projects carried out in other EU countries. The evaluation exercise revealed a number of technical and methodological weaknesses in a significant percentage of cases. A set of simple and clear cut recommendations is proposed twofold: to improve the current standard of EIA practice and to strengthen the role of the so called EIA Commissions, at the crucial review stage of the EIA process.},
doi = {10.1016/j.eiar.2006.10.005},
journal = {Environmental Impact Assessment Review},
number = 3,
volume = 27,
place = {United States},
year = {Sun Apr 15 00:00:00 EDT 2007},
month = {Sun Apr 15 00:00:00 EDT 2007}
}
  • Uncertainty about environmental mitigation needs at existing and proposed hydropower projects makes it difficult for stakeholders to minimize environmental impacts. Hydropower developers and operators desire tools to better anticipate mitigation requirements, while natural resource managers and regulators need tools to evaluate different mitigation scenarios and order effective mitigation. Here we sought to examine the feasibility of using a suite of multidisciplinary explanatory variables within a spatially explicit modeling framework to fit predictive models for future environmental mitigation requirements at hydropower projects across the conterminous U.S. Using a database comprised of mitigation requirements from more than 300 hydropower project licenses, wemore » were able to successfully fit models for nearly 50 types of environmental mitigation and to apply the predictive models to a set of more than 500 non-powered dams identified as having hydropower potential. The results demonstrate that mitigation requirements have been a result of a range of factors, from biological and hydrological to political and cultural. Furthermore, project developers can use these models to inform cost projections and design considerations, while regulators can use the models to more quickly identify likely environmental issues and potential solutions, hopefully resulting in more timely and more effective decisions on environmental mitigation.« less
  • Environmental mitigation plays an important role in the environmentally sustainable development of hydropower resources. However, comprehensive data on mitigation required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at United States (US) hydropower projects is lacking. Therefore, our objective was to create a comprehensive database of mitigation required at non-federal hydropower projects and provide a synthesis of available mitigation data. Mitigation data was collated for over 300 plants licensed or relicensed from 1998 through 2013. We observed that the majority of FERC mitigation requirements deal with either hydrologic flows or recreation and that hydropower plants in the Pacific Northwest had themore » highest number of requirements. Our data indicate opportunities exist to further explore hydropower mitigation in the areas of environmental flows, fish passage, and water quality. Lastly, connecting these data with ecological outcomes, actual flow data, and larger landscape level information will be necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation and ultimately inform regulators, managers, and planners.« less
  • While the development of maritime economic activity is increasingly encouraged, the consideration of its impacts constitutes a real challenge. The limitations of the implementation of the mitigation hierarchy have been widely discussed in scientific literature, yet data on marine biodiversity offset practices remains scarce. In this study, we investigated the use of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as suitable instruments to achieve the No Net Loss objective. Drawing on a French approach developed for the initial assessment of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive, we examined the pressures and impacts related to various marine development projects and the effectiveness of themore » mitigation hierarchy in limiting these. An analysis of 55 recent French environmental impact studies showed that only 7% of the proposed measures had the aim of offsetting predicted degradation of sites of remarkable biodiversity. This can be partly explained by the lack of a clear definition of ‘significant impact’, which varies greatly depending on what is impacted, in turn allowing socio-economic activities to benefit more easily from offset. Furthermore, offsetting does not always constitute the final step of the mitigation hierarchy, highlighting the need to reinforce avoidance and reduction steps. Although we acknowledge the role of EIA in mitigating the negative impacts of development projects, synergies with other European marine environmental policies such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Maritime Spatial Planning directive (MSP) should be developed in order to improve current practices. - Highlights: • Avoidance measures were not well represented in the Environmental Impact Assessments studied. • Few significant residual impacts and measures to offset these were described. • Common biodiversity did not benefit from offset measures. • The equivalency of proposed marine offsets is questionable.« less