The European Parliament's environment committee was voting on a proposal to recast the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive, which combines seven existing directives into a single directive on industrial emissions (IED).
The proposal seeks to reinforce the implementation of the legislation, which obliges industrial installations to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil and water.
MEPs strengthened the proposal by limiting the instances where public authorities can issue permits for installations that do not follow best available techniques (BATs).
The committee added new text to clarify the conditions under which national authorities can set limits on emissions that are not as strict as those associated with BATs. It states that derogations are not allowed "where environmental quality standards risk not being met and shall in any case ensure that any deviation does not result in significant impacts on the local environment".
MEPs decided to limit derogations to cases where assessments have demonstrated that the geographical location or local environmental conditions of an installation prevent the implementation of BATs, or where the technical characteristics of an installation would create disproportional economic costs compared to environmental advantages.
The committee also agreed to allow member states to give their large combustion plants until mid-2019 to meet emission limit values. This goes some way to appeasing governments that had demanded an extension until the end of 2020 (EurActiv 26/06/09).
Commission to assess need for minimum limits
The environment committee abandoned a controversial proposal to introduce EU-wide minimum requirements for emission limits after member states had made clear this would not be acceptable (EurActiv 19/03/10).
Instead, the new text would require the Commission to assess the need for EU-wide minimum limit values for individual industry sectors and to table legislative proposals if necessary. Assessments would be based on a sector's overall environmental impact and the state of the implementation of best available techniques.
The European Parliament as a whole is scheduled to vote on the amended text in July.
Member states missing pollution limits
The vote came as the European Environment Agency (EEA) reported that around half of EU member states will miss at least one of their air pollutant emission limits under the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive. Moreover, 11 countries expect to exceed their ceilings "by significant amounts," it said.
Rather than limiting pollution from individual sources like the IPPC directive, the law sets national limits for four pollutants.
The new data compiled by the EEA shows that nitrogen oxide (NOx) presents the biggest problem, as only 16 countries said they expected to meet their limits. This is mostly down to growth in the transport sector, where vehicle emissions standards have failed to deliver the required NOx reductions, the organisation said.