German MEP Holger Krahmer (ALDE), who is guiding legislation to recast the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive through Parliament, presented his new proposals to colleagues in the environment committee on Wednesday (17 March).
The proposal aims to closer align the Parliament's views with those of member states in order to reach agreement on the legislation, which will require some 52,000 industrial installations to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil or water.
The new Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) recasts seven existing directives, including the IPPC and the Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCP), in a bid to reinforce implementation and close loopholes that have allowed member states to abuse flexibility mechanisms.
Krahmer's new proposal scraps a flagship concept added to the draft law by MEPs at first reading, the 'European safety net', which would have created EU-wide minimum emission limit values that no operator is allowed to exceed.
The idea was fiercely opposed in the Council of Ministers by many member states, which do not want to see Brussels reduce their flexibility to issue permits.
"Looking at the Council position, we've got to be sober," Krahmer said, acknowledging that there would be no agreement on the 'European safety net' in its original form. He added that the member states' proposal was more comparable to a list of exceptions.
"Why legislate if we have it as it is? We might as well leave it up to each member state to continue to do whatever they like," Krahmer said. He pointed out that the reason the legislation was being revised was to close loopholes that allowed member states to apply widespread exceptions to the rules.
In response to national concerns, Krahmer has tabled a modified proposal, which no longer requires minimum limit values as a general principle but on a sector-by-sector basis.
The European Commission would be tasked with investigating the implementation of best-available techniques in each sector and the environmental impact of the sectors. It could then adopt EU-wide minimum requirements for emission limit values, if the report deems it necessary to do so.
"It will be a hot fight because the opposition is very strong," Krahmer told EurActiv, before asserting that it is realistic to think that a compromise can be found on the new approach.
"We have to see that industrial installations is a complicated issue," he said, pointing out although the existing directive has been in force for a decade, it remains more or less unimplemented.
"That's why the time is right, with the experiences of the last ten years, to say we have to do something else," he added.
The new proposal will require the approval of a qualified majority of MEPs in plenary to be adopted as an official Parliament position. The Greens and Socialists have been supportive of minimum emission limit values, but the centre-right European People's Party group is more divided, with some members sharing their governments' opposition.
"I think the discussion in the committee yesterday was not about the rejection of this principle. The discussion was more about what is the best way to implement that," Krahmer said.
One of the biggest issues will be to determine whether the decision on potential minimum emission limit values would be made according to the Commission's internal comitology procedure, or by co-decision, while involves the Parliament.