EIAs and the process and substance of international law
Government officials, when required to make a decision that has potential consequences for the natural environment, are faced with the daunting task of having to integrate political, scientific and normative considerations into a unified decision-making process. Where the decision in question has the potential to impact the environment of another state, or where the possible impact is to a resource of global common concern, decision-makers may have to account for the political, scientific and normative views of affected states, affected persons within other states, and the wider international community, including international organizations and nongovernmental actors. How decision-makers account for these considerations, the conditions under which they are required to account for them and the modalities by which these considerations are brought into domestic decision-making processes, are among the questions this book seeks to address. My interest is with the operation of a set of institutionalized decision-making arrangements commonly referred to as environmental impact assessment (EIA). In particular, this book is concerned with the employment of EIA processes in domestic decision-making processes to address environmental issues that have international dimensions.
The central idea that animates the EIA process, that decisions affecting the environment should be made in light of a comprehensive understanding of their effects, is straightforward enough. Yet, when EIA was introduced in the United States in 1969, it was considered a significant innovation to the domestic policy-making landscape.