At the last sitting of the spring session of the Riigikogu, seven Bills concerning the environment passed the second reading.
The Bill on Amendments to the Radiation Act (463 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading in the Riigikogu.
The European Union directive according to which the Ministry of the Environment will have to carry out radiation and nuclear safety peer reviews at least every six years will be transposed into Estonian law. In the case of Estonia, the directive applies to the former nuclear object in Paldiski, and therefore the topic of peer review will have to be chosen taking into account this object. The first peer review will be performed in 2017. In practice, this means that a working group consisting of Estonian experts will perform a self-assessment which will then be sent for review to other European Union Member States.
Under the current Act, in addition, also an international audit has to be conducted every ten years. An amendment provides that an audit will have to be conducted immediately also in case of a situation of accidental exposure at the Paldiski nuclear object. No accidental exposure situations have emerged in Estonia, and nuclear fuel has been removed from the nuclear object in Paldiski already years ago.
The Bill on Amendments to the Atmospheric Air Protection Act (462 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading.
As the EU has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 within the framework of a global agreement, and by 20 per cent unilaterally, all sectors must contribute to the achievement of these targets. The Bill will transpose two relevant EU directives.
A considerable share of the total amount of greenhouse gases in the Union originates from fuel used in transport. The aim of the amendment is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector in order to improve the general ambient air quality. The Bill provides for an obligation, arising from the Fuel Quality Directive, for the suppliers of fuel, who will have to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of fuels used in road transport by at least 6 percent by 2020. Also, the reduction required will have to continue every month after 2020.
Besides that, information on the fuels and energy used in road transport, including information on the volume, origin and place of purchase, the volume of greenhouse gas emissions, etc., will be collected and transmitted to the European Commission.
The Act is planned to enter into force in general part pursuant to general procedure. The amendments relating to the Liquid Fuel Act are planned to enter into force on 1 May 2018.
The Bill on Amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act (415 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. It will transpose the relevant EU directive for the establishment of common minimum requirements for the environmental impact assessment of the ensurance of the protection of the environment and human health. The Bill will specify the content requirements for preliminary environmental impact assessment and for reporting, which will improve the content and quality of the preliminary estimates.
When issuing development consents, the decision-makers will also have to estimate the relevance of the environmental impact assessment report. The explanatory memorandum notes that, for example, there may be situations where an application for development consent is issued several years after an environmental impact assessment has been declared compliant with the requirements. The relevant environmental information may however have changed significantly in the meantime. Therefore in the future the decision-makers will have to consider every time whether the environmental impact assessment prepared earlier is still relevant or not.
In justified cases the decision-maker will have the right to request an additional expert assessment from the developer – thereby it will be ensured that decision-making is based on up-to-date and adequate material. Decision-makers will have an additional obligation to take into account and enter into the conditions of the development consent the environmental measures provided for in the course of environmental impact assessment.
The Bill will change the minimum time limit for the public display of an environmental impact assessment report. The time limit will be 30 days in the future, instead of the current 21 days. Already at present, in the practice of impact assessment, as a general rule, the address of the website where the documents are available electronically is included in a notice regarding the publication of an environmental impact assessment programme or report. However this may not always be the case and therefore the Act will be amended by adding the requirement to also indicate the relevant home page address in a notice regarding the publication of an environmental impact assessment report.
To better inform the parties to the proceedings and the public, a decision to declare an environmental impact assessment report compliant with the requirements will have to set out, among other things, the final conclusions of the report. This will help establish a better connection between the report and the granting of or refusal to grant development consent.
The Bill on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act (implementation of the Nagoya Protocol) (444 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. It will amend the Nature Conservation Act in order to implement the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from Their Utilization. Pursuant to the Nagoya Protocol, the aim of the Regulation is to ensure that the genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge used in the EU have been acquired legally from their country of origin.
The relevant Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council, which is directly applicable in Estonia, will set an obligation on the Member States to establish a system for monitoring the users of genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources utilised in the country who fulfil the obligations arising from the Regulation. Penalties will be imposed for infringement of the requirements arising from the Regulation. The Bill appoints the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Research as the competent agencies responsible for the implementation of the Regulation. In the Nagoya Protocol, any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin is regarded as genetic material. Utilisation of genetic resources means to conduct research and development on the genetic and/or biochemical composition.
The Bill on Amendments to the Environmental Monitoring Act (443 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. It provides that, in the future, the data collected through national environmental monitoring will be stored and processed in the environmental monitoring database which will be established by the Minister of the Environment. The Bill will save time in pooling and making available monitoring data, and ensure more informed decisions and more reliable assessments of the state of the environment.
Environmental monitoring is meteorological and hydrological monitoring, monitoring of the air, groundwater, inland water bodies, coastal sea, diversity of wildlife, landscapes and forests, integrated monitoring, radiation monitoring, seismic monitoring and soil monitoring.
The Bill on Amendments to the Fishing Act and the Environmental Charges Act (452 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. It will enhance the reporting relating to recreational fisheries and specify the Act to implement European Union law which is necessary for better operation of the point system for infringements by masters of fishing vessels. Editorial amendments and amendments arising from practical implementation will also be made to the current Act.
In the future, recreational fishermen fishing on the basis of fishing cards will not be punished under the misdemeanour procedure for failing to submit catch data. Fishing card will be necessary when fishing gear with greater impact, like entangling nets or longlines, are used in recreational fishing, and also when spinning reels are used for fishing in trout and salmon rivers. A rule will be established that, if a recreational fisherman has failed to submit catch data in due time, they will not be issued a fishing card. Up to now, a similar rule has been in force with a precondition that the person has to have been previously punished for the relevant offence. As an assessment is given to the situation of the resources and fishing opportunities are allocated on the basis of catch data, the obtainment of accurate catch data is very important.
Four motions to amend the Bill were submitted during the second reading. The first motion to amend amends the Bill by proposing a fishing restriction of recreational fishing according to which exceeding the quantities of fish allowed to be caught in recreational fishing is deemed to be causing of damage to fish resources. This motion to amend is connected with an address by the Association of Fishery who drew attention to the sale of the fish caught illegally in recreational fishing. According to the second motion to amend, exceeding the quantity of fish allowed to be caught in recreational fishing, if committed by a natural person, will be punishable by a fine of up to 300 fine units. The third motion to amend will amend the Bill by adding a new clause under which, for water bodies where the state invests in the introduction of eel (Võrtsjärv, Saadjärv, Lake Kaiavere, Lake Kuremaa and Lake Vagula), it will be possible to determine the fishing charge on the basis of 30 to 50 per cent of the average costs for introducing fish incurred between the seventh and twelfth preceding year, instead of the current 30 per cent. The fourth motion to amend will amend the provisions concerning the entry into force of the Act.
The Bill on Amendments to the Atmospheric Air Protection Act and the General Part of the Environmental Code Act (464 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. It will transpose several European Union legal acts into Estonian law. The Act will be amended by adding penal provisions regarding the failure to comply with the requirements for monitoring and reporting of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport. Namely, as of 1 January 2018, all owners of large ships will have to monitor carbon dioxide emissions on their voyages and to report on it annually.
The regulation relating to the handling of fluorinated greenhouse gases, or F-gases, will also be specified. F-gases are industrial gases that are used for example in refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment and heat pumps and fire protection equipment. An amendment will create the possibility for owners of equipment containing F-gases to store in their premises a container containing F-gas collected from equipment if this activity has been registered in FOKA Registry.
A provision will also be added to the effect that, as of 1 January 2017, the public list of the holders of a permit to handle equipment containing F-gases will be transferred to the register of economic activities. Earlier, this list was available on the website of the Environmental Board. In addition, liability provisions, that is, elements of misdemeanour that so far were lacking in Estonian law or needed improvement, will be established for the implementation of the EU F-gases Regulation.
The Atmospheric Air Protection Act will be amended by adding a provision that will allow reclamation of supports granted from GHG emissions trading revenues. The amendment was due to the fact that, up to now, it was impossible for the body granting support to seek compulsory enforcement of decisions to reclaim support.
At the same time, the Bill will partially transpose the directive on the regulation of emissions into the air from medium combustion plants. In connection with that, the requirements for the storage and submission of data related to air pollution permits will be specified. Namely, in the future, data will have to be stored for six years instead of the current five years.
A Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to § 178 of the Penal Code (422 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Oudekki Loone, Igor Gräzin, Barbi Pilvre, Eerik-Niiles Kross, Artur Talvik, Valdo Randpere, Remo Holsmer, Helmut Hallemaa, Marika Tuus-Laul, Toomas Vitsut, Heidy Purga, Marianne Mikko and Hardi Volmer, was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu.
The Bill provided for wording subsection 178 (1) of the Penal Code as follows: manufacture, acquisition or storing, handing over, displaying or making available to another person in any other manner of pictures or other visual works or reproductions of works depicting a person of less than eighteen years of age in a pornographic situation, or a person of less than fourteen years of age in a pornographic or erotic situation, is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to three years’ imprisonment.
The Bill would have added subsection 178 (3) to the Penal Code worded as follows: this section does not apply if a work specified in subsection (1) has significant artistic, scientific, historical or political value.
Raivo Põldaru from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, Jüri Adams from the Free Party Faction and Oudekki Loone from the Centre Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 52 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 9 were against, and there were 2 abstentions. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/en/201706151000
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay).
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