Finnish Permitting Process
Permitting requirements in Finland
Two permits are required to lay pipelines within the Finnish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): the Government Consent for the use of the Finnish EEZ (the exploitation right) according to the Finnish EEZ Act, and the permit for pipeline construction and operation according to the Water Act. Prior to submission of the permit applications, the national Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure was applied to the project. The EIA procedure in Finland included the assessment of potential transboundary impacts in accordance with the Espoo Convention.
Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure in Finland
The aim of the EIA procedure in Finland is to evaluate the environmental impacts of a project, to ensure that consistent information on the impacts is available during planning and decision-making, and to provide the public with information and the opportunity to participate in the process. For the Nord Stream 2 Project, international consultation was also held in accordance with the Espoo Convention and the environmental impacts assessed in the transboundary context, i.e. from Finland to a neighbouring country (Affected Party).
The coordinating authority for the EIA procedure was Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, with Nord Stream 2 AG as developer.
The Finnish EIA procedure is defined by EIA legislation as consisting of the EIA programme phase and the EIA report phase.
The EIA programme is the plan for necessary studies and arrangements for the assessment procedure. The EIA Programme and Project Information Document (PID) underwent the public consultation phase by the coordinating authority, during which various stakeholders were able to provide their statements and participate to the process via public hearings. Furthermore, in the context of the Espoo convention, statements from Affected Parties were requested on the basis of the EIA Programme and the Project Information Document (PID). Based on the opinions and statements received, the coordinating authority issued its statement on the EIA programme. The first phase of the EIA procedure was completed in 2013.
In the second phase, based on the EIA programme and the coordinating authority statement, the actual environmental impact assessment was carried out and the results compiled in the EIA report.
The EIA report describes the main characteristics and technical solutions of the project with a comprehensive assessment of impacts. The report includes assessments of transboundary impacts from the project in Finland. In addition, measures to prevent or mitigate adverse environmental impacts were included. Transboundary impacts to Finland were presented in the Espoo Report.
Nord Stream 2 submitted the EIA report together with the Espoo Report to the coordinating authority in early 2017, after which the coordinating authority made the documentation available to the public in April for two months. During this period, various stakeholders and interested parties had the opportunity to provide statements and opinions on the EIA documentation. International opinions and statements were also requested.
The coordinating authority compiled the public statements and opinions and issued its statement on the EIA report in July 2017, stating that “assessment report is properly prepared and adequate in this EIA phase.” This statement concluded the EIA procedure. The EIA report and the coordinating authority's statement were taken into account in the permitting procedures.
The Finnish Association for Impact Assessment awarded Nord Stream 2’s Finnish EIA the “Good Environmental Impact Assessment Award” on 23 March 2018. Drafted by the environmental consultancy Ramboll Finland, the EIA was said to be well-written and to include an extensive amount of information on the project's implementation alternatives and their impacts. Mitigation measures for reducing the impacts were said to be thoroughly considered and presented extensively, so that the potential negative impacts on for example marine life and sea traffic would remain minor. The assessment was also credited for its vast supplements describing for example engagement with various stakeholders, such as fishermen and coastal inhabitants. It is also stated that Nord Stream 2 has fulfilled its responsibilities in the Espoo procedure very well.
Permitting procedures in Finland
After the EIA procedure ended, Nord Stream 2 AG submitted two permit applications to permitting authorities in September 2017.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment handled the process for the Government Consent for the use of the Finnish EEZ. The Consent was granted on 5 April 2018.
The Regional State Administrative Agency Southern Finland handled the permit for pipeline construction and operation according to the Water Act. The Water permit was granted on 12 April 2018, completing the permitting procedure in Finland.
Permit applications included plans for environmental monitoring of the actual environmental impacts during preparatory works, construction and operation of the pipeline in the Finnish EEZ. Monitoring programme was approved within the Water permit decision. Nord Stream 2 will report regularly on the monitoring results to the competent authorities.