The Brazilian Federal Government published, on April 23, 2015, in the Official Gazette, a new Decree changing the rules for environmental licensing of some large infrastructure projects in Brazil.

Decree No. 8.473/15 aims to determine the projects and activities in which the environmental licensing shall be made by the Brazilian Environment and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis – IBAMA), a federal governmental agency associated with the Environmental Ministry, in an effort to simplify and eliminate frequent conflicts between IBAMA and state and municipal environmental offices.

The Decree, which is already effective, lists the situations in which IBAMA shall be responsible for the environmental licensing of projects in various sectors, such as highways, waterways, ports, exploration and production of oil and gas, as well as projects related to the generation and transmission of energy. Some of the main projects that are now under the sole responsibility of IBAMA for licensing are listed below:

  • Federal highways and waterways, in the cases where the related works cover more than 200 kilometers of extension.
  • Organized ports (portos organizados), except for port facilities that move cargo in a volume smaller than 15 million tons per year.
  • Private port terminals and port facilities that move cargo in a volume higher than 15 million ton per year.
  • Hydroelectric and thermoelectric plants with installed capacity equal to or higher than 300 megawatt.
  • Wind power plants, only in case of projects and activities carried-out in the sea.
  • Exploration of non-conventional oil and gas resources, which demand the use of special recovery processes and technologies. 

The new regulation has established a more clear division of the authority for the matter of environmental licensing between the federal agency (IBAMA) and the state and municipal environmental offices, mitigating the regulatory risk for the sponsors of each of the abovementioned projects.

The new rules have immediate effect for new projects. The environmental licensing process and authorization for projects started before the date of the publication of the Decree must continue to comply with the former procedures, with the original authorities, until the termination of the term of the respective operational license.

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