A proposal, backed by Germany and Austria, to place a cap on noxious emissions spewed out by a wide range of industries, including steel, chemicals and processed food plants, is set to be voted down by EU environment ministers today (2 March) over concerns that the measure would be too costly.
The proposed recast of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive would require some 52,000 industrial operators to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil or water.
Environment ministers from the 27 EU member states are to debate broadening the scope of the directive to new industrial sectors, such as large industrial farms or waste incinerators.
Power plants and refineries with a capacity of between 20 and 50 MW are also to be included in the scope of the revised text (only those of 50 MW and above were regulated under the previous version).
But the issue is raising concerns about security of energy supply, as it would create extra costs to upgrade oil refineries.
Moreover, a proposal by the European Parliament and the European Commission that would require pollution limits to be applied as a kind of “safety net” is raising concerns about the extra costs it would generate for industry.
“What the European Parliament is asking is to put in place limit values which cannot be exceeded, even when taking local circumstances into account,” explained a diplomat involved in the negotiations.
Under the proposal, specific limit values would be defined as a kind of “safety net” by the Commission, with the help of national experts using the so-called ‘comitology’ procedure.
But the diplomat said there is broad agreement that this would create too much rigidity for industry. “The safety net will probably be rejected at this stage,” the diplomat said. “There is a relatively large consensus of 25 member states to say that this is not opportune,” he added, explaining that only Germany and Austria are in favour.
The Parliament, however, appears to see things differently. In January, its environment committee approved the introduction of EU-wide emission limits in the proposed new directive. They said minimum emission limit values, which must not be exceeded, are needed to avoid having to resort to large-scale exemptions (EURACTIV 23/01/09).
The full House will vote on the revised directive on 12 March.
Best available techniques
Consensus, however, is emerging over the strengthening of a procedure that mandates the use of the cleanest available technology in specific industrial sectors in order to limit pollution.
“One of the core elements of the Commission’s proposal is to strengthen the application of Best Available Techniques (BATs) compared to current legislation. BAT refers to the most effective and available emission reduction technology, as documented in European BAT Reference Documents (BREFs),” explains the EU’s Council of Ministers in a briefing note.
“The Commission believes that member states have [allowed] too much divergence from BAT in the permits they deliver to industry. The proposed recast directive therefore envisages a more prominent role for BREFs in order to reduce the scope for national authorities to deviate from BAT in permitting,” it continues.
“There appears to be a consensus on the need to strengthen the role of BREFs,” according to a negotiation document prepared last November by the French Presidency of the EU.
The document also suggests that the comitology procedure is rejected by most member states as it would strip them of their ability to regulate polluting emissions at national level. “A large majority of delegations also wish to keep the present procedures for preparing and adopting BREFs while strengthening their role in determining permit conditions, particularly as regards emission limit values,” the document reads.