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Is environmental impact assessment regulation a ‘burden’ to private firms?

Annandale, D. and Taplin, R. (2003) Is environmental impact assessment regulation a ‘burden’ to private firms? Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 23 (3). pp. 383-397.

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The impact of environmental regulation on macroeconomic performance has been studied in some depth over the last 15 years. Similarly, impact on profit performance, investment intention and location decisions of firms has also been studied, although in less depth. There has been less academic interest, however, in the impact that environmental regulation has on the strategic objectives of companies.

This article reports on a research project that focused on the impact that environmental approvals regulation (predominantly environmental impact assessment, EIA) has on proposed new development in the international mining sector.

Based on a large and externally valid survey of senior mining company executives in Australia and Canada in the late 1990s, the research indicated that a significant majority of firms consider the environmental approvals process to be an important determinant of investment strategy. An initial reaction to these figures might suggest that the majority of respondents believe the environmental approvals process to be a negative influence.

However, further questioning indicated that only a small proportion of companies in both countries thought of the environmental approvals process as an impediment to development. Instead, it is clear that most firms see EIA as a catalyst for integrating environmental design into the early planning of a project, thereby alleviating the need to spend money on overcoming environmental problems once a poorly designed project has been commissioned.

The somewhat surprising conclusion that companies see environmental approvals regulation as important, but as an encouragement to development rather than as an impediment, goes against much previous industry and academic comment and, at least in relation to the mining sector, refutes the idea that EIA is “burdensome”.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd
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