Environmental Assessment Practitioners have been granted an extension to 8 August 2022 to register with the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa. Unless they register, they cannot take primary responsibility for Environmental Impact Assessments.
The deadline for the registration of Environmental Assessment Practitioners (EAPs) with the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa (EAPASA) was extended by a further six months on the eve of the 7 February deadline last week. This is the second extension granted in terms of the regulations for the registration of EAPs under section 24H of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 in 2016 (Regulations).
The Regulations aim to regulate a rapidly-growing profession of environmental practitioners in view of the growing demand for environmental assessments across various industry sectors. This is largely to be done through EAPASA, the designated registration authority in terms of the Regulations. EAPASA is responsible for ensuring the professionalism of EAPs and for improving the quality of environmental assessment practice in South Africa.
Initially, EAPs were given until 8 February 2020 to register with EAPASA. This deadline was eventually extended to 8 February 2022 in recognition of the number of EAPs that would not be able to register timeously. EAPs have now been given a further six months (i.e. until 8 August 2022) to: allow more time for EAPs to register; for EAPASA to process registration applications; and to consider additional proposed amendments to the Regulations that were gazetted for comment in December 2021 (Proposed Amendments). The Proposed Amendments have proven to be extremely controversial as a result of what we believe to be an unintended limitation on the involvement of practitioners, other than registered EAPs, in a range of tasks under NEMA and other environmental laws.
After 8 August 2022, unregistered EAPs will not be permitted to hold primary responsibility for the planning, management, co-ordination or review of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and environmental management programmes. If, however, the Proposed Amendments to the Regulations are promulgated in final form as currently worded, then unregistered EAPs will also not be able to perform a range of additional tasks in connection with, among other things, section 24G rectification applications and appeals contemplated under section 43 of NEMA.
Clients are advised to ensure that their appointed EAPs register within the extended time period, as the legitimacy of EIA processes (and potentially of a range of additional tasks) that are run by unregistered EAPs after 8 August 2022 could be called into question. Unregistered EAPs who continue to hold primary responsibility for EIA processes after this deadline could also be prosecuted under the Regulations.
We will keep you abreast of new developments as they arise.