An Environmental Impact Assessment is performed to determine the impact of the project on the environment through all phases of the project. The impact on the environment is considered to be a “cost” of the project. One would expect an environmental impact study to be a positive asset, as it considers the environmental and human cost of the project. The purpose of the environmental assessment is to identify, prevent, minimize, mitigate, and compensate for any adverse impacts on the environment (Dani, 2003). Some statutes require that a study be conducted for certain types of projects, but not for all projects. This would appear to be a good policy on first look, but it may take a greater toll on society than first suspected.
One of the key disadvantages to conducting an environmental impact study of an area is that this information is made available to the public. This improves transparency and public trust, but this information is written for the expert in the area and not the lay person (DOE, 2012). The issue is that the general public may not have a thorough understanding of the terms and topics presented in the impact study. This lack of understanding may cause a public outcry against the project, when in reality the impact is negligible.
The final disadvantage of the environmental impact study is that it ads extra costs to the project. It is possible that the results of the study will result in the project being cancelled or the plans rewritten. This results in additional wasted resources. Some consider the process to be just another political stumbling block designed to complicate matters even further. It is also possible that the environmental impact study may save the project money in the long run, particularly if issues are discovered and remediated in the early part of the project.
The costs and benefits of the Environmental Impact Assessment depend on the outcome of the study and the presence of unanticipated outcomes. One of the key risks involved in the conduct of an Environmental Impact Assessment is that the study will not be conducted properly and that environmental hazards will be missed. In this case, the study would represent an additional unnecessary cost. Whether the factor is a major or minor cost depends on the nature of the issue that is found.
An Environmental Impact Assessment is often seem in a negative light because it has the ability to halt a project. It is seen as a detriment to development (Ogola, 2007). The Environmental Impact Assessment widens the gap between economic and environmental aspects of the study. The Environmental Impact Assessment is designed to not only identify the issues present, it is supposed to help present alternatives and solutions. In some cases, there is no easy solution and the decisions must consider the potential outcome of each of the alternatives. The choice will be made by determining which of these potential outcomes will have the greatest positive effect on the project.
A properly conducted Environmental Impact Assessment will not only identify the hazards present, it will categorize them in terms of their impact on humans and the environment. It will help to better target where funds need to be spent in the remediation of problems. The purpose of the assessment is to help decision makers in the project understand how to prioritize risks and allocate funds. Environmental Impact Assessments that leave out this important step fail in their duty to assist decision makers. A properly conducted assessment is an asset to the project and has many advantages. Every project is different and one must consider the specific characteristics of the project. One must understand that conducting the study poses many potential risks to the completion and cost effectiveness of the project as a whole.
- Dani, Anis. (2003). From Mitigating Impacts to Improving Outcomes. Presented at the
Conference on New Directions in Impact Assessment for Development: Methods and
Practice. Manchester, 24-25 November 2003.
- DOE. Information Leaflet 1: Your Permitted Development Rights and Environmental
Assessment. Retrieved from
- Ogola, A. (2007). Environmental Impact Assessment General Procedures. Presented at Short Course II on Surface Exploration for Geothermal Resources, organized by UNU-GTP and KenGen, at Lake Naivasha, Kenya, 2-17 November, 2007.