Questions and answers

Which legal fundamentals and their observance are examined in the environmental impact assessment?

Compliance with the regulations for environmental protection is examined (Art. 13 UVPV). This includes, for example, the environmental protection act and provisions that apply to protection of nature and cultural heritage, landscape protection, water protection, forest conservation, hunting and fishing (Art. 3 UVPV).

Is a UVP always required?

The UVP must always be carried out for facilities that could significantly impact the environment to the extent that project or location-specific measures are necessary to comply with the legal provisions for environmental protection. The Federal Council has designated facilities for which the UVP is mandatory in the annex to the UVP ordinance and determined threshold values for different types of facilities. Possible measures could include the following:

  • Preparation of water protection, air pollution control, noise prevention and soil protection concepts for the construction site
  • Project optimisation measures for the protection of valuable habitat (mitigation measures) and execution of restoration and replacement measures for the affected valuable habitat
  • Provisions for connection of the construction site and the building of tracks and roads for later forestry management

This is the case in many Swissgrid substation and transmission line projects.

Who decides whether a project is subject to an obligatory UVP?

The Federal Council has issued a list of all facilities for which a UVP is obligatory. Based on this, as a responsible applicant, Swissgrid clarifies whether a UVP is required for a project. In case of doubt, SFOE, as the responsible authority, determines the UVP obligation of a facility, following consultation with the specialist department for environmental protection.

What is a UVP preliminary examination?

A preliminary examination is carried out in preparation for the environmental impact report. The preliminary examination should show which environmental areas must be investigated in the UVB and precisely what must be clarified in the specific environmental areas. If the impacts on the environment and the environmental protection measures are conclusively determined in the preliminary examination, then the results of the preliminary examination are valid as a report.

At what point in the approval process is the UVP carried out?

The UVP Is carried out of as part of the planning approval process. This is done on the basis of the UVB submitted by Swissgrid.

What issues does the UVB examine?

The environmental impact report contains all the information required for assessment of a project in accordance with the regulations for environmental protection. The impact, which can vary, depending on the proposed facility (e.g. major roads, landfills, golf courses, high-voltage overhead and underground lines, etc.) is examined for different environmental areas. The environmental areas examined could be: noise, non-ionising radiation, water, soil, contamination, forest, biotope and vegetation, fauna and habitat, landscape and visual character, cultural monuments and archaeological sites.

Which issues are particularly sensitive?

That depends on the facility and the affected area. With high-voltage overhead lines, issues such as landscape intrusion and the effect of non-ionising radiation are relevant whereas with underground lines, landscape intrusion almost disappears, but encroachment in the soil becomes more important. In addition, special attention is paid to protected areas (landscape protection areas, protected biotope), protected species and habitat.

When is UVB submittal required?

The UVB is prepared during the project design phase and is a component of the planning submission. It is delivered to the authority directing the process at the time of planning submittal.

Is the UVB publicly accessible?

Following submittal of the dossier, the UVB remains with the publicly accessible plans at the municipality. Public display lasts for 30 days and is publicised in the official register. Swissgrid also publishes its UVBs on its website.

Which authorities examine the environmental impact of a project?

The environmental impact assessment and regional planning departments of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (SFOE) evaluates compliance with legal requirements on the basis of the environmental impact report and the opinions of cantonal environmental protection specialist units. Based on this assessment, ESTI carries out the formal examination of environmental impact and issues environmental requirements which must be strictly complied with during execution of the project.

What are locations with sensitive use (OMEN)?

The following qualify as OMEN:

  • rooms in buildings where persons remain for extended periods
  • public or private, legally approved children's playgrounds
  • areas of undeveloped land where the above uses are permitted
Who decides whether environmental supervision (UBB) must be arranged?

The obligation to arrange UBB is based on the provisions of the environmental protection law. Basically, UBB is indicated for all projects with significant environmental impacts during the construction phase. In these projects, UBB is a requirement of planning approval. As the client, Swissgrid can also provide UBB independently. Ultimately, the authority administering the process determines when UBB is mandatory.

Who provides UBB?

Depending on the environmental impacts that must be anticipated during the construction phase and Swissgrid's resources, environmental supervision tasks are assigned to internal or external units, individuals or entire project teams. It is also possible, depending on the project, that supervision by environmental specialists is only required for individual environmental areas such as site support related to soils.

Who checks whether the requirements of the planning approval decision (PGE) are implemented correctly?

ESTI ensures that the requirements are implemented and measures executed by carrying out an ecological building inspection, together with the owner, cantonal specialist units and, if necessary, service providers, following completion of the work.

When does UBB begin in a project?

UBB is already in place and active before construction begins. It plays an important part in the bidding and planning of construction work, because the greatest opportunities for influence exist at this point.

Is environmental supervision permanently on site? Or do they make spot checks?

The organisation of UBB is matched to the project. But basically, it is not permanently on site. On larger projects or in critical construction phases, supervision is on site regularly, up to several days a week. With smaller or less problematic projects, it is on site less frequently. In any case, UBB is always available to the owner and project manager as an expert contact.