Land and Environment Courts and the County Environmental Permit Offices
– Processing times for environmental licenses after the reforms
Growth Analysis has evaluated the Swedish government’s initiatives to shorten processing times for environmental licenses for mines and quarries. The results of the evaluation indicate that the process is not significantly longer for mines and quarries than for other comparable environmentally hazardous industries.
We did not find evidence to support that the establishment of the Land and Environment Court has had any effect on the length of the process. However, we did find that increased appropriations to the courts might contribute to expediting the licensing process. Increasing our ability to assess the long-term trends will require us to repeat the study after more time has elapsed.
Background and commission
Growth Analysis’ work in this regard includes evaluating the effects that specific reforms have on processing times for environmental licenses for mines and quarries. Those reforms include: establishing the Land and Environment Court, reducing the concentration of County Environmental Permit Offices from 21 to 12 counties, and increasing appropriations to the Courts and the Permit Offices.
We have addressed this question using three methods. First, we study the level of resources and the caseloads at the Land and Environment Court and the County Environmental Permit Offices. Second, we present processing times based on actual cases handled by the courts and the offices from 2007–14. We compare processing times for mines to those for comparable environmentally hazardous industries that are handled by the Courts. We also compare the processing times for licenses for quarries with the times for other industries that County Environmental Permit Offices handle. Finally, we compiled and presented the results from case studies where parties involved give their views as to whether the establishment of the Land and Environment Court and increased appropriations have had an effect on the length of the process.
Resources and appropriations
We have found that the Land and Environment Courts that handle the greatest number of cases also have the largest budget. Budget increases have primarily been used to increase the staff at the courts. The budgets of the different County Environmental Permit Offices are more difficult to measure, as they are included in the overall budget of the County Administrative Boards housing each office. We have found, however, see that the number of license applications the offices receive varies greatly from year to year.
Processing times for environmental permits
Based upon interviews with representatives from the courts, mining companies and public agencies consulted in the process we find no evidence that the establishment of the Land and Environment Court has had any effect on processing times for environmental licenses. However, the persons we interviewed believe that the courts have become more active since they received increased appropriations, which is assumed to lead to shorter processing times.
In a comparison of processing times for licenses for different types of environmentally hazardous activities, we have found that licenses for mining do not take longer to process than those for other comparable industries. Neither the median nor the spread stands out. Furthermore, we found neither an increase nor a decrease in processing times for mining during the period studied. Licenses for quarries are processed faster than licenses for other comparable environmentally hazardous industries handled by the County Environmental Permit Offices. Processing times at the offices are, however, increasing for all types of industries overall. The offices that have received responsibility for processing applications for licenses from neighbouring counties generally have longer processing times than offices covering only one county. We need to study the effects of the reforms after a longer period of time has elapsed to be able to see the long-term trend.