In order to find out whether the implementation of its plan or programme will have effects on the environment, the preparing authority submits it to the advisory committee. After performing research and analysis, this committee, as its name suggests, issues an opinion which the preparing authority must take into account. How are these experts on environmental effects organised?
The committee’s composition is determined by the law of 13 February 2006 (.PDF) which ‘organises’ the assessment of environmental effects. Ten members sit on the committee for a period of four years, with a renewable mandate. They meet at least twice a year, or as many additional times as is necessary. It is up to the chairperson to call meetings of the committee when the situation requires (for a new assessment, for the results of an assessment in progress, etc.).
As can be seen from the royal decree on its organisation and functioning, the committee does not confine itself to receiving and reading an assessment dossier. It first receives from the preparing authority a draft listing which defines the scope and accuracy of the information contained in the environmental report. The committee, which has a genuine investigatory function, is then required to conduct any research and request any information which proves necessary in order to check the accuracy of the data appearing in the applications or to deal with problems of a general or specific nature associated with its mission.
Once this investigatory work has been completed, the ten members are invited to submit an opinion, if possible on the basis of a consensus. Failing this, the committee takes a vote, with the chairperson given the casting vote in the event of a tie. The committee’s opinion may also set out the various positions which were advocated.