The new environmental statute must be considered within the context of other Dominican laws and regulations. Companies interested in doing business in the Dominican Republic, or in expanding their current operations, that have questions about the implications of the new law should feel free to contact their attorney at the firm, or the firm's managing partner, Luis Pellerano.
Purposes Of The Law
The law lists more than a dozen basic principles. For example, one basic principle is that the law is intended to create standards for the conservation, protection, improvement, and restoration of the environment and natural resources, ensuring their sustainable use. It also declares that environmental impact studies shall be the "basic instruments" for environmental management.
In addition, the law contains nearly a dozen objectives. These include regulating activities that affect the environment, developing a national environmental plan based on sustainable development, and managing in a "rational" manner the nation's water systems and basins.
The Natural Resources Department
The law creates the Natural Resources Department as the governing body in charge of environmental matters. It also establishes five divisions of the Natural Resources Department, responsible for: environmental management; soils and waters; forestry resources; protected areas and biodiversity; and coastal and marine resources.
Instruments For The Management Of The Environment And Natural Resources
The new law explains the methods that the Natural Resources Department may use to manage the Dominican environment and its natural resources. These include: environmental planning; environmental permits and licenses; strategic evaluation of environmental impact; environmental inspection; and incentives.
Thus, as described in the law, the planning of development throughout the country now must incorporate a consideration of environmental issues. Toward that end, all development plans, programs and projects -- whether of a national, regional, provincial, or municipal nature -- must be drafted or adjusted to reflect the new law's guiding principles and the applicable environmental policies, strategies, and programs established by the Dominican government.
A "National System of Protected Areas," with particularly significant environmental properties such as forests, wildlife refuges, and certain beaches, is created by the new law, and made subject to the control of the Natural Resources Department. These protected areas are subject to a temporary ban on modification until regulations are developed regarding their use.
These regulations will relate to the conservation and use of these areas, and must facilitate scientific research -- and promote recreational activities and sustainable tourism.
Environmental Impact Statements
Developers must undertake certain steps that the law refers to as "environmental evaluation" before they may proceed with their projects. This evaluation includes the following steps: environmental impact statement, strategic environmental evaluation, environmental impact study, environmental report, environmental license, environmental permit, environmental audits and public consultation.
The Natural Resources Department will be issuing regulations regarding this requirement. Among other things, they will require that developers perform an analysis to make certain that plans are consistent with the national policy on the environment and natural resources. Additionally, every project or other activity that could affect the environment and natural resources in one way or another must obtain in advance from the Natural Resources Department an environmental permit or license, depending on the magnitude of the effects it could cause.
The law also sets forth the projects and activities that require an environmental impact evaluation. These include:
- ports, docks, navigation ways, breakwaters, piers, canals, shipyards, drains, maritime terminals, reservoirs, dams, dikes, irrigation canals, and aqueducts;
- high voltage electrical transmission lines and their sub-stations;
- hydro and thermo-electrical central stations and nuclear generating plans;
- airports, bus and railroad terminals, railroad lines, highways, roads, and public roadways;
- urban development projects;
- industrial plants, including sugar mills, cement plants, liquor distilleries, beer factories, paper factories, chemical factories, textile factories, producers of construction materials, equipment, and metallic products, tanneries, and gas, halogen, hydracid and acid facilities;
- agribusinesses and slaughterhouses, breeding stables, milking establishments and animal feedlots of industrial dimensions;
- plans for agrarian transformation, agricultural plantations, and cattle breeding, rural settlements, including those carried out according to the Agrarian Reform laws;
- mining projects, including petroleum and turbine;
- explorations or prospecting, removal of the earth's crust, exploitations, construction, and operation of wells, dams, processing plants, refineries and disposal of residues;
- extraction of dry materials (rocks, gravel, and sand);
- installation of pipelines, gaslines, mining ducts, and other analogous installations;
- importation, production, preparation, transformation, use, marketing, storing, transportation, disposal, recycling, or re-use of toxic, noxious, explosive, radioactive, inflammable, corrosive, or reactive substances or others of evident dangerousness;
- systems of environmental sanitation, such as sewage systems and potable water systems, sewage treatment plans, and plants to treat toxic residues of industrial, residential, and municipal origin, sanitary fills, underwater outlets, treatment and disposal systems for solid, liquid, or gaseous effluvients;
- engineering projects that are projected to be performed in protected forests or water production and other fragile ecosystems, in rain or cloud forests, in upper basins, in wetlands, or in coastal areas;
- hotel or tourism development installations;
- and industrial parks, industrial free zones, or industries of transformation, and assembly parks.
Costs of an environmental impact statement or environmental impact study are to be borne by the developer, and are considered public documents subject to disclosure.
The Dominican Republic's new environmental law raises a number of environmental issues that developers and businesses operating in the country need to consider. By placing the responsibility for these matters in a newly created department, the law also reflects the country's interest in attracting foreign investment and its recognition of the need to allow businesses to discover what they need to learn to be able to comply with the rules in a streamlined, meaningful, and cost effective manner.
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.