Planning, approvals, construction projects – many things should happen faster in the country in the future. The Chancellor’s Office made an initial proposal for this, and suggestions and comments from the states have also been available since last week. In some cases they even go beyond the Chancellery’s acceleration ideas. Is it possible that too much acceleration will be sacrificed in the end?
Concern that this could happen is growing – at least among environmental associations and environmental politicians. “The proposals are excessive and come at the expense of legal certainty,” says the environmental policy spokesman for the Green parliamentary group, Jan-Niclas Gesenhues. “Clear-cutting environmental protection is the wrong instrument if you want to speed up planning.” Ultimately, construction projects lose acceptance.
“Especially in times of massive species extinction, we have to think about nature conservation and infrastructure development together instead of playing them off against each other,” warns Gesenhues. If authorities were better equipped and digitalization played a larger role in approvals, acceleration would be a better service.
Environmental compatibility tests should be eliminated more often
In fact, the paper contains a number of suggestions that would make environmental concerns more difficult to enforce in the proceedings. The previously necessary environmental impact assessment should be able to be omitted more often or be carried out in a standardized manner – recently such exceptions were allowed in order to be able to build and connect terminals for liquid natural gas more quickly.
Roads, power lines and industrial facilities should also be easier to approve by no longer checking the occurrence of certain species in detail, but only in a standardized manner. The model here is agreements relating to the expansion of wind power. On the other hand, according to the wishes of the states, the legal protection options of environmental associations should be limited – namely to cases in which “there is no predominant or even outstanding public interest in certain projects,” as the states’ comments state.
Whether such an interest exists should not only be based on the law, but can also be “made plausible by the administration and the court”. Subsequent objections to projects should be more difficult to raise, and legal planning for “large and significant infrastructure projects” should also be examined. Approval would then no longer be granted by an authority, but by the Bundestag. Anyone who wants to do something about it would have to appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court.
Environmental groups are not enthusiastic about the proposals. “If you want to speed up everything, you won’t speed up anything,” warns Kai Niebert, head of the German Nature Conservation Ring, the umbrella organization of environmental associations. “That’s why the power to accelerate should be put into public services and not into roads or factories.” After all, there is also “chewing gum bureaucracy” here. For example, when it comes to protecting cities against floods or storing CO₂ in moors. This must have priority.