As an entrepreneur you may not always think about it, but certain business activities have an impact on Bonaire’s nature and the environment. Some entrepreneurs ask themselves how this works and other entrepreneurs prefer not to think too much about it. Which rules apply in Bonaire and what things do you have to consider as an entrepreneur when carrying out your activities or expanding your business?
Since 2015, large companies (called ‘establishments’ in the environmental regulations) are governed by the rules of the BES Act on Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (the BES Act VROM). In Bonaire this currently only concerns those establishments where large quantities of petroleum products are stored, but the list may be expanded. Under the BES Act VROM, these establishments must comply with strict regulations to prevent calamities and to reduce the risks to the environment. Applying for an environmental permit is therefore not easy and the regulations that are set in the permit often require substantial investments.
In addition to the BES Act VROM, the Nuisance Ordinance remains in force. The Nuisance Ordinance only applies to activities that are designated by the Island Ordinance. It is often difficult to find out what those ordinances entail, because they have not always been published (correctly). However, if you plan to keep more than 300 chickens or 50 pigs, for example, demolish more than 8 car wrecks or generate energy using a wind farm or generator with an output of more than 1 MW, you’ll need a nuisance permit. Applying for a nuisance permit is a bit simpler and the Executive Council will also impose regulations in order to prevent risks to the environment.
In addition to the aforementioned permits, a set of general rules is currently being considered, which would apply to small businesses where activities take place that are potentially harmful to the environment. It concerns, for example, car repair shops, gas stations, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants. The intention is to put a regulation in place that divides these types of companies into different categories. Each category comes with a set of standard rules that the companies must comply with. An example is the use of drip trays or filter installations. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to design and establish such rules, also in view of the many small-scale entrepreneurs who have been running their business for many years in a certain way and now may be faced with necessary investments. That is one of the reasons why the Activities Decree has not yet been introduced. As a new entrepreneur, it is advisable to have a look at the rules that apply in the Netherlands and to base your investments on those rules. This may save you from having to make adjustments in the future.
Nature is a precious commodity and one of Bonaire’s Unique Selling Points. Nature conservation in Bonaire is organized based on three pillars: areas, activities, and plants and species. The designated nature parks are the Marine Park and the Washington Slagbaai Park. These parks enjoy special protection. Nothing may be disrupted and certain activities are prohibited. Protected plants and species are described extensively in various treaties and the Island Ordinance on Nature Conservation. Without an exemption (sometimes accompanied by a reimbursement of costs) these plants and species may not be affected. The list of prohibited activities is also included in the Island Ordinance on Nature Conservation. As an entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to check if your business activities are mentioned in the list. If this is the case, you may be obligated to prepare an environmental impact assessment report.
Environmental impact report
For some initiatives and activities, an environmental impact report must be prepared. This report maps out the effects of a project on the environment. The preparation of a good environmental impact report is not easy and often requires specialized help. Entrepreneurs and project initiators sometimes view this report as a necessary evil, but it is actually an excellent opportunity to carefully identify all of the interests and stakeholders. An environmental impact report maps out the consequences of various implementation methods (alternatives) in order to facilitate a well thought-out decision. These interests are weighed against the economic interests (read: the costs of the various alternatives), which makes it perfectly possible that a less favorable alternative will still be chosen as the preferred option because of its costs.
With the rise in business activities in Bonaire, nature and the environment are becoming increasingly important. The legal framework already provides for a system of rules that is not completely transparent in all respects. All establishments, whether they are large or small, must currently comply with environmental regulations or will have to do so in the future. Nature and the environment therefore should be part of every business plan. As far as nature is concerned, the protection of areas, plants and species takes center stage. Sometimes it is disregarded that certain activities also fall under the scope of those rules. In that case an environmental impact report must be prepared, given this aspect a place in doing business in Bonaire as well.
Tom Peeters is an experienced and specialized real estate lawyer and head of our Bonaire office. He regularly publishes about project development, sustainable energy projects, cooperative structures and (public) procurement. Via this blog he shares his knowledge about these and other legal topics that concern entrepreneurs in Bonaire.