(CMR) The tension between the Central Planning Authority, the National Conservation Council, the Department of Environment, and developers continues to grow as the DoE has alleged that local developer Frank Schilling has been dishonest in blaming the department for holding up his Port Zeus (Brac Marina Village) development.
Schilling, however, maintains that the DoE is moving slowly as he still does not have a signed letter from the DoE more than a year after his application was submitted.
CMR understands that there are allegations that the CPA has been deliberately holding up applications in order to blame the DoE to give some apparent validity to the rhetoric that the DoE is holding up applications.
However, the DoE said less than 1 percent of applications that go in front of the CPA actually need to come to the DoE for an EIA recommendation; however, the developers are making it seem like a larger percentage of projects need to go to the DoE, blaming them for slowing down the economy.
All this is reportedly an attempt to push the Government to water down the National Conservation law after the courts ruled that the National Conservation Act (2013) provides the National Conservation Council (NCC) with the ability to direct government bodies in circumstances where actions could have an adverse effect on protected areas or species.
Allegations are that this rift between developers, the NCC, Doe, and CPA– with developers and CPA being on the same side– has caused even a political rift, and that is why Wayne Panton was unseated as Premier. It is also believed to be connected to Jennifer Ahearn's removal from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Resiliency.
Who is to be blamed for delays in EIA?
Several local developers have blamed the DoE for delays in EIA for their projects; however, the DoE has sought to clarify that it is the project proponent that prepares and conducts the EIA for review by the EAB, and therefore the length of time an EIA takes is usually controlled by the proponent and their consultants and depends on the nature of the project.
The EIA process is an integral part of sustainable thinking and planning before major development projects begin to ensure all of the impacts to people and nature are considered within the framework of the project.
The DoE said it had received some inquiries about the status and timeline of the Port Zeus (Brac Marina Village) Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) following the publication of a story in the Cayman Compass.
“The information provided in the Compass incorrectly attributes a 9-month delay to the DoE/Environmental Assessment Board. However, the months-long gap was actually the time it took for the project proponent and their consultancy firm to prepare the draft Terms of Reference (TOR), which outlines how the EIA will proceed,” the DoE stated.
The Department said that since the EIA process is public information, it has created a timeline to show how the project has progressed through the stages of the EIA.
According to the DoE, “there is a misinformed idea that an EIA is a lengthy process conducted by the DoE, but an EIA is in fact carried out by the project proponent or applicant, with oversight from an Environmental Assessment Board (EAB).”
The EAB is formed specifically for each project and is composed of relevant Government authorities, including the DoE. The EIA process and the timelines for the EAB to respond to the submission of key documents are set out in the National Conservation Act EIA Directive (2016).
The DoE explained that the Terms of Reference (TOR) are the ‘recipe’ for the EIA, including all of the studies needed to fully inform the final EIA report. Once the draft TOR is finalized, it goes out for public review through a consultation process organized by the proponent and their consultants, in keeping with the EIA Directive.
This ensures not only the transparency of the project details but also the opportunity for the public to comment on the project and identify any important considerations that were missed and should be addressed by the EIA, the DoE added.