The uncertainty surrounding the deadline for the registration of Environmental Assessment Practitioners (EAPs) was brought to an end when the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Minister) announced that EAPs will have until 8 February 2022 to register with the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa (EAPASA).
The regulations for the registration of EAPs under section 24H of the National Environmental Management Act, 107 of 1998 (NEMA) came into force on 22 July 2016 (with the exception of regulation 14), in an effort to regulate a rapidly growing profession of environmental practitioners which was brought about by the need for environmental assessments to be undertaken (Regulations). The Regulations provide for the establishment of a registration authority which is responsible for ensuring the professionalism of EAPs and for promoting quality assurance regarding environmental assessment practice. The Regulations also prescribe certain educational and competency criteria that EAPs must meet in order to register with the registration authority.
Importantly, regulation 14 of the Regulations prohibits a person from holding primary responsibility for the planning, management, coordination or review of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and environmental management programmes (EMPrs) unless that person is an EAP that is registered with a registration authority.
EAPASA was appointed as a registration authority in terms of the Regulations on 8 February 2018 and EAPs who were primarily responsible for EIAs and EMPrs were initially required to register with EAPASA within 24 months (i.e. by 8 February 2020).
In recognition of the number of EAPs that would not be able to register timeously, the Minister published her intention to extend the deadline in January this year. No formal extension was published, however, until 21 August 2020. This meant that the legitimacy of EIA processes that were being run by unregistered EAPs after 8 February 2020 could have been called into question. The EAPs who were running those EIA processes and who had failed to register in time could also have been exposed to prosecution under the Regulations.
The Minister has indicated that whilst competent authorities will accept applications (for environmental authorisation etc) after 8 February 2020 from unregistered EAPs, EAPs are "strongly encouraged" to continue to submit their applications for registration with EAPASA in the interim.
The Minister has also indicated that the Regulations will be amended to provide clarity on various aspects and to ensure that the implementation of the Regulations is more efficient.
We will keep you abreast of these developments when they are released.