In 2021, the House of Representatives approved the General Environmental Licensing Law (Bill 2159/2021), which has been stuck at the Senate ever since. The aim of this law is to streamline investments in the country’s infrastructure. In turn, the proposal states that basic sanitation constructions, low and medium voltage electricity distribution, road and port improvements and maintenance, should be exempt from the process.
Environmental law specialist, Alexandre Aroeira Salles, explains that the legislation would cut red tape for construction projects and improve energy services for homes, businesses, and small and medium industries.
He mentioned, “This would surely result in more efficiency for new energy distribution projects in urban and rural areas, as well as small and medium-sized industrial and transformation projects that will no longer require specific secondary licensing to connect plants to the main network.”
Salles suggests that exempting basic sanitation projects from the licensing procedure would contribute to achieving the goal of universal access to sanitary sewage services and potable water distribution by 2033, as orchestrated by the legal framework approved by the National Congress in 2020.
In a country like ours that lacks an appropriate production drainage system, we could also benefit from loosening the licensing requirement for services and projects aiming to maintain or improve highways and port facilities, considers Salles.
“The exemption from licensing for the improvement of ports and airports is a significant innovation that facilitates investments in renovations and maintenance of essential logistical structures for the country’s development, considering that the environmental impacts have already been measured in the original environmental licensing,” explains the specialist.
According to the proposal, the exemption of certain projects from environmental licensing does not exempt entrepreneurs from the responsibility of obtaining, when required by the law, authorisation to clear the negative vegetation of the area, permission for the use of water resources, and other permissions.
A supporter of the proposal in the National Congress, Senator Zequinha Marinho (Podemos-PA), highlights that the exemption from licensing for low-impact activities is not a new concept.
He states that, “In the past, state governments listed activities and immediately issued a decree waiving licensing because they couldn’t handle trivial matters with big, bureaucratic processes only to reiterate what everyone already knew: ‘there’s no impact, a license is granted.’
He bets that the simplification in obtaining licenses predicted by the proposal is going to unlock investments in the country. “Be sure that once we can cut the red tape, simplify the process, or even eliminate in some cases, such as these, the need for an environmental license, investments will be unleashed remarkably quickly and positively,” he says.
According to the proposal, the following would also not require an environmental license:
- Military activities or developments proposed for the preparation and employment of the Armed Forces;
- Activities or projects considered insignificant by the licensing authority;
- Works and emergency interventions in response to infrastructure collapse, accidents or disasters;
- Works and interventions aimed at preventing imminent environmental damage or stopping situations that pose a risk to life;
- Points of voluntary delivery or similar systems covered by reverse logistics;
- Waste sorting plants, whether mechanised or not;
- Yards, structures and equipment for the composting of organic waste;
- Recycling plants for construction waste;
- Eco-points and eco-centres;
- Cultivation of species of agricultural interest;
- Extensive and semi-intensive livestock farming;
- Small-scale intensive livestock;
- Agricultural research that does not imply a biological risk.