The Regulation defines the environmental procedures and measures applicable in the Electrical Sector for electrical power generation, transmission and distribution, in all of their phases (construction, operation, maintenance and phase-out) in order to prevent, control, mitigate and/or compensate adverse environmental impact and to enforce the measures necessary to cause the least environmental impact. Specifically, the Regulation contains rules related to Environmental Impact Studies and Environmental Management Plans (requirements for the issuance of Environmental Licenses granted by the Ministry of the Environment) and Environmental Audits and other control and prevention duties undertaken by CONELEC, as the authority in charge of environmental issues in the electrical sector.
Appropriate Entity: CONELEC, in concordance with the local environmental policy issued by the President of the Republic and based on the Law (Environmental Management Law, Ministry of the Environment), will define the environmental policies applicable to the electrical sector. For this purpose, CONELEC must consider the identification and estimate of environmental impacts that will be caused by the application of Ecuador’s Electrification Plan, programs and projects, as well as the strategies to attenuate negative impacts while promoting positive effects and to incorporate effective strategies for the protection of the quality and quantity of natural resources.
Obligations of concessionaires, permit holders and licensees of the electrical sector:
- Submit for the consideration and qualification of CONELEC an Environmental Impact Study (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for new projects, work or facilities. Once approved by CONELEC, the interested party submits the Definitive Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) to the Ministry of the Environment for the issuance of the Environmental License;
- In their operations, implement processes, activities, technologies and methods that attenuate and, to the extent possible, prevent the magnitude of adverse environmental impacts;
- Develop environmental and informative training as well as job security programs in benefit of every level of their staffs. Electrical power distribution companies are required to establish and maintain permanent training and communications programs addressed to users so as to promote usage efficiency and energy conservation;
- Effect environmental monitoring anticipated in the Environmental Management Plan and conduct internal environmental audits, and submit the findings thereof for the consideration of CONELEC and when required by the Ministry of the Environment;
- Facilitate access to the information needed for independent audits made directly by CONELEC or through third parties; permit and cooperate with the inspections necessary for the verification of compliance of environmental rules;
- Submit the information required by the Ministry of the Environment; and,
- Submit any other information or documentation required by CONELEC in application of the Electrical Sector Regime Law and regulations.
Environmental Protection Rules: The Regulation contains some rules related to environmental protection measures:
Submission Clause: Submission to legislation in effect must be stipulated in concession contracts, permits or licenses for the electrical sector.
Permissible limits and other parameters: Natural or juridical persons authorized by CONELEC to engage in electrical power generation, transmission or distribution are required to take technical and operative measures to ensure that pollutants in emissions and discharges from their activities do not exceed the permissible limits established in national and sectional rules on environmental protection and contamination control. Pollution includes emissions into the atmosphere, noise levels, discharges into water, soil contamination prevention and control, solid wastes, and other rules on the unauthorized use of pesticides for agricultural use in Ecuador, storage, transportation and marketing of petroleum and petroleum byproducts, the rules of the municipalities in the areas of their jurisdiction and environmental protection ordinances issued by sectional governments.
With respect to the right to lay transmission and distribution lines and/or make other electrical service installations, concessionaires, permit holders and licensees must abide by the provisions contemplated in the Electrification Project-Related Rights and Encumbrances Law (Official Gazette 472 of November 28, 1977).
Technical prevention measures: CONELEC will establish the regulations by observing technical measures so as to avoid environmental impacts, depending on the characteristics of the project, work or installation and the natural conditions of the ecosystems and affected areas. Any measures that cannot be taken must be explained in the Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
Environmental Instruments: Environmental instruments for the development of electrical activities are:
- Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The object of the EIS is to assess in advance the potential environmental impacts an electrical project, work or installation can pose and to propose the measures to prevent, attenuate and/or compensate adverse impacts while promoting positive impacts. Only electrical power generation projects or work with a total capacity equal to or greater than 1MW, and transmission and distribution lines, at voltage and length levels approved by CONELEC, need to submit an EIA and PMA.
- Environmental Audit (EA): The EA is a tool for assessing the compliance and effectiveness of the EMP, for verifying compliance of applicable environmental rules, and for proposing recommendations during the construction, operation-maintenance and phase-out of electrical power generation, transmission and distribution systems.
Levels of EIS preparation: The EIS is prepared on two levels: Preliminary and Definitive. In case the interested party has a Definitive EIS, it will not be required to draw up a Preliminary EIS so long as the former contains a thorough analysis on alternatives, including technical and environmental reasons for the selected option.
Preliminary Environmental Impact Study (PEIS): The PEIS is prepared during the initial phases of electrical project studies. The PEIS must include an initial and basic assessment of the environmental impacts posed by the project and will be a basic tool for decision making with respect to the selection of alternatives concerning both site and technology. In addition, the PEIS must contain a general technical description of the electrical project, baseline, thorough analysis of site or route alternatives and characteristics of the project’s key elements aimed at reducing environmental impacts, identification and basic description of major environmental impact the project will cause for each proposed alternative, and a general description of the project’s Environmental Management Plan.
Definitive Environmental Impact Study (DEIS): The DEIS is prepared in the advanced stage of electrical project studies. The DEIS must include a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impacts posed by the project and will be a basic tool for decision making with respect to the prevention, mitigation and/or compensation of major adverse impacts and for the promotion of identified positive impacts.
The DEIS must contain an executive summary, detailed technical description of the electrical project, complete environmental reasons for the alternative concerning the site or route chosen intended at reducing environmental impacts, baseline, definition of areas of direct and indirect influence based on CONELEC’s guidelines, identification, characteristics and assessment of negative and positive impacts with a complete description of impacts considered major, and a detailed Environmental Management Plan.
The EMP must include the programs and actions for preventing, mitigating, remedying and/or compensating potentially adverse environmental impacts and for promoting the positive impacts of the project during its construction, operation-maintenance and phase-out; environment and job security programs, contingencies and risks, and waste management, including hazardous wastes; project related environmental training programs; a citizen participation program; program monitoring, control and follow-up for evaluating EMP compliance and effectiveness; the budget, schedule and costs of each program and the person in charge of carrying through the EMP.
Environmental audits are Internal and Independent and are conducted in the frequency contemplated in the Environmental Management Plan. The cost of the audit is paid by the concessionaire, permit holder or licensee, and the results of the environmental audits will be available to the public at large.
For the granting of a contract for a specific concession, permit or license for a new project, besides fulfilling the requirements listed in the Electrical Power Service Concession, Permit and License Regulation, holders of concession certificates, permits or licenses will be required to submit to CONELEC their DEIS for the analysis and approval of CONELEC, along with a certified copy of the authorizations, permits or licenses obtained and required from any other governmental entity with jurisdiction to authorize the use and exploitation of natural resources. These include the license issued by the Ministry of the Environment and a letter of commitment to submit the DEIS to CONELEC.
Generic Cases: The Ministry of the Environment conducts an analysis of the PEIS and DEIS for projects under a generic concession and issues the corresponding environmental license.
Electrical activities in areas of National Wealth of Protected Natural Areas: Anyone interested in obtaining a concession, permit or license to carry out an electrical power generation, transmission or distribution project located in part or entirely in areas of National Wealth of Protected Natural Areas, the State Wealth of Forests, or Protected Forests and Vegetation, are required to obtain, prior submission of the PEIS with CONELEC, clearance from the Ministry of the Environment.
Hydrographic basin management: Natural or juridical persons holding a concession, permit or license issued by CONELEC for hydroelectric power generation, are required to abide by the provisions established in the Hydrographic Basin Management Plan steered at preserving the quality and quantity of hydric resources. CONELEC will coordinate with the appropriate entities and promote the study and execution of the project through participative processes.
Control and Supervision: CONELEC will oversee the compliance and effectiveness of environmental management plans to be executed by concessionaires, permit holders and licensees, and the environmental obligations established in their contracts, the Electrical Sector Regime Law and regulations, as the case may be. CONELEC will also directly or through third parties conduct independent environmental audits, inspections, monitoring or any other control and overseeing activities.
In case of accidents or acts of God triggered by adverse environmental impacts, the concessionaire, permit holder or licensee will take all the measures included in the Contingency and Risk Program, which must be attached to the Environmental Management Plan, and will immediately inform CONELEC and the Ministry of the Environment.
Accusations filed with CONELEC: Any natural or juridical person can file accusations with CONELEC with respect to environmental pollution or degradation occurring as a result of electrical activities, even when not directly affected by an action or inaction. Furthermore, anyone can file an accusation with CONELEC concerning the nonperformance of environmental management plans during the construction, operation-maintenance or phase-out of generation, transmission and distribution installations. CONELEC has the power to conduct the inspections and environmental audits it deems necessary.
Offenses and penalties: The violation or noncompliance of the rules of the Regulation are administrative offenses and will be penalized by the Executive Director of CONELEC. CONELEC’s jurisdiction does not cover offenses, which due to their seriousness or content, must be resolved by other authorities.
In addition to the penalties listed in the Penal Code and in the Environmental Management Law, concession contracts, permits or licenses must include a penal clause for cases of nonperformance of environmental obligations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.