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03 September 2018
Proposed new legislation would introduce automatic permits for certain energy infrastructure projects (eg, electricity grids and power plants). According to the federal minister for digital and economic affairs, in order to maintain Austria's attractiveness as a business location and ensure sustainable development, comprehensive investment in its infrastructure is required. In this respect, it is particularly important that investors receive planning and legal certainty as quickly as possible with regard to the feasibility of their projects in Austria.
The proposed new Location Development Act aims to regulate a special selection procedure for individual, location-relevant projects, as well as special measures to speed up the permitting procedures for these projects, because existing administrative procedures – especially those relating to environmental impact assessments – can be very time consuming. The process-accelerating measures are a lex specialis to:
A location-relevant project pursuant to Section 2 of the Location Development Act must undergo an environmental impact assessment as per Sections 3 and 3a of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (for further details please see "Will new state targets lead to reduced environmental protection?"). In addition, a permit application must have already been made to the competent authority. Special public interest for a location-relevant project is assumed if the project and its implementation are expected to have extraordinarily positive consequences for the business location, such as:
The Location Development Act sets out the following steps for determining a project as location-relevant:
If the permit application for a project in which Austria's public interest has been confirmed has not been rejected or approved within one year of the announcement of the location-relevant project in the respective ordinance, the following consequences foreseen in Section 11 of the Location Development Act will apply:
In fact, the Location Development Act is intended to 'automatically' approve location-relevant projects if the authorities fail to make a timely decision. In general, a decision should be issued by the authority within six months. However, after a period of approximately 18 months (including the period for identifying a project as location-relevant), major projects which are expected to have extraordinarily positive consequences for the business location and must undergo an environmental impact assessment will be deemed approved.
The proposed act will certainly have a major impact on projects in the energy sector, such as grids or the construction of large power plants. While the economy rejoices over faster legal security, non-governmental organisations and lawyers have expressed doubts about the maintenance of the standard of other material laws and the legal admissibility of the government project.
The legislative proposal remains under evaluation.
For further information on this topic please contact Dagmar Hozová or Nina Zafoschnig at Schoenherr by telephone (+43 1 53 43 70) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Schoenherr website can be accessed at www.schoenherr.eu.
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