Environmental checks for new gas pipelines

The UK Government has introduced new regulations requiring environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for certain large underground gas pipelines.

The regulations will come into force on 15 July and will require public gas transporters to publish environmental statements, which will be made available for comment by the public and interested bodies.

The Regulations will allow local planning authorities, environmental agencies and interested members of the public to comment on environmental statements to the Secretary of State, before he decides whether to grant consent to such projects.

Smaller pipelines, such as those serving new housing developments could be made subject to EIA under the regulations if that proved to be necessary.

The Public Gas Transporter Pipe-line Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 1999/1672 implement the original Council Directive on the environment – 85/337/EEC, on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment – and the amending Council Directive 97/11/EC.

The Regulations incorporate the following elements:

  • All proposed pipes more than 40km long and with a diameter exceeding 800mm have to be subject to environmental impact assessment (EIA);
  • Proposed pipes which will traverse a sensitive area as defined in the Regulations or which will operate at a pressure exceeding 7 bar gauge can either be subject straightaway to EIA, or following a determination from the Secretary of State after consultation with planning authorities that EIA is required; and
  • The scope of an environmental statement can be defined by the Secretary of State after consultation with planning authorities and relevant environmental bodies.
  • The only public gas transporter whose proposed pipes are likely to be subject to the Regulations now and for the foreseeable future is Transco as other public gas transporters are only currently involved in laying smaller pipes. Such pipes could be made subject to EIA under the Regulations if that proved to be necessary.
  • Transco have for a number of years voluntarily submitted all their proposed high pressure pipes (i.e. those designed to operate at a pressure exceeding 7 bar gauge) to EIA which has involved widespread consultation with the relevant bodies. The main additions to Transco’s own EIA processes resulting from the Regulations will be formal notice of an environmental statement inviting comments and the issue of a consent to a proposed pipe by the Secretary of State.

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