On 1 january 2021 a new procedure comes into force for conducting a state environmental expert review

6 min read

Pepeliaev Group advises that Resolution No. 1796 of the Russian Government “On approving the Regulations on the conducting of a state environmental expert review” dated 7 November 2020 (the "Resolution") that will come into force on 1 January 2021 was published on the official legal information portal on 11 November 2020.

This Resolution is a part of the reform of regulatory and supervisory activity (the “regulatory guillotine”) and is intended to replace Resolution No. 698 of the Russian Government dated 11 June 1996 that regulates similar matters.

1. Bodies authorised to conduct an environmental expert review

Please be reminded that items subject to a state environmental expert review (“SEER”) can be of the federal or regional level. SEER of items in the first category is performed by the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (abbreviated in Russian as Rosprirodnadzor) and its regional bodies and for items in the second category SEER is performed by authorised bodies of Russia’s constituent entities. This part of the procedure for the conducting of SEER will remain unchanged after the Resolution comes into force[1]
Authorised bodies form a commission for each specific item subject to a SEER. In addition to staff members of the authorised bodies, a commission should include external experts, and the number of members in a commission should be odd[2]

2. Submitting documents for a SEER

One of the new developments in the Resolution is an option to submit documents for a SEER electronically. In this case, the documents should be in an electronic form, signed by an encrypted digital signature and submitted using the federal state information system “The Unified Portal for State and Municipal Services (Functions)” and the departmental software resources[3]

3. Interim timeframes for a SEER

The Resolution has added clarity to the procedure for the conducting of a SEER by having set specific timeframes for certain acts that the state authority should complete in the framework of a SEER.

For example, the authorised body must register the materials submitted for a SEER within 1 business day and within 7 business days it must send to the party having ordered the SEER a notification that the materials provided either meet or do not meet the established requirements[4]

If the set of documents submitted for the SEER is incomplete, the notification must list the missing documents[5]

The authorised body must begin the SEER not later than in 15 days (and in certain cases, not later than in 3 days) from when it has been paid for by the ordering party and the materials have been received in full. Previously, this timeframe was 30 days[6]

4. Duration of a SEER

The new developments have also affected the duration of a SEER - from 4 months it has been reduced to 2 months with an option to extend for 1 month at the request of the party having ordered the SEER (unless otherwise provided by federal laws)[7]

5. Information on a SEER in progress being publicly available

The procedure for the conducting of a SEER has been supplemented with several new provisions laying down the need to publish information on the SEER in open sources.

For example, the Resolution provides that the authorised body has an obligation to publish on its official website an announcement that the expert commission of the SEER has begun its work. This announcement must contain information about the duration of the SEER and the date and address of the kick-off meeting of the expert commission[8]

If interests of Russia’s constituent entities are affected during a SEER of items at the federal level[9], the interested state authorities of such constituent entities may send their experts to participate as observers in the meetings of the corresponding expert commission[10]

Information about the SEER opinion is published on the official website of the executive authority, which was conducting the expert review, in compliance with requirements of Russian legislation concerning state, commercial and other protected secrecy[11]

Rosprirodnadzor and executive authorities of Russia’s constituent entities will have an obligation to keep the register of SEER opinions and to provide information contained in it[12]

In addition, in accordance with the Resolution, the appointed secretary of the expert commission must notify the party having ordered the SEER of the meetings of the expert commission including the form, date, time and location of such meetings[13]

The ordering party and/or its representatives may attend the meetings of the expert commission, report the nature of the activities being planned and provide clarifications and additional information with respect to the item subject to the review[14].

6. Conclusion of the expert commission

The draft summary opinion of the expert commission is prepared by its head and the appointed secretary. This draft needs to be approved by a simple majority (previously, not less than a 2/3 qualified majority was required) of the nominal roll of the expert commission. In case of a tie vote, the head of the expert commission has a casting vote[15]

If the commission’s conclusion is unfavourable, it must include specific comments and proposals as to how the materials provided can be improved[16]

In this case, according to the new procedure, the expert commission may not conclude that the item reviewed may not be implemented because the activity being planned will not meet the environmental requirements, unlike under current Resolution No. 698 of the Russian Government dated 11 June 1996[17].

7. Validity period of a SEER opinion

The resolution establishes that the validity period of a SEER opinion should be set with account of the timeframe for the implementation of the item subject to the expert review but may not be less than five years[18]

However, the validity period for SEER opinions regarding draft technical documentation for new equipment, technology or new substances that may enter the environment, shall be unlimited[19].

What to think about and what to do

The adopted Resolution has entrenched certain aspects of how a SEER must be conducted. Companies planning to have a SEER conducted should take into account the possibility that the legal regulation of this procedure described in this alert may change.

Help from your adviser

Pepeliaev Group's experts are ready to provide comprehensive legal support to companies regarding any matters connected with SEER.

[1] Clause 1 of the Regulations on the conducting of a state environmental expert review approved by the Resolution (the “Regulations”).
[2] Clause 3 of the Regulations.
[3] Clause 6 of the Regulations.
[4] Clauses 8 and 9 of the Regulations.
[5] Clause 9 of the Regulations.
[6] Clause 10 of the Regulations.
[7] Clause 12 of the Regulations.
[8] Clause 14 of the Regulations.
[9] If these items are implemented within the corresponding constituent entity of Russia or if economic or other activities planned by another constituent entity of Russia can affect the environment within the corresponding constituent entity of Russia.
[10] Clause 17 of the Regulations.
[11] Clause 28 of the Regulations.
[12] Clause 28 of the Regulations.
[13] Clause 16 (g) of the Regulations.
[14] Clause 20 of the Regulations.
[15] Clause 22 of the Regulations.
[16] Clause 23 of the Regulations.
[17] Clause 20(b) of the Regulations on the procedure for the conducting of state environmental expert review (approved by Resolution No. 698 of the Russian Government dated 11 June 1996).
[18] Clause 27 of the Regulations.
[19] Clause 27 of the Regulations.
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