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Euro-MPs urge more time for combustion plants to comply with emission limits

Certain combustion plants, including some fossil-fuel power stations, should be allowed extra time to meet stricter rules on industrial emissions, Euro-MPs said today. The proposal will be voted in July.

The proposed update to existing legislation would further restrict industrial emissions, so as to protect public health and the environment, while simplifying the administrative burden on industry and public authorities.

"MEPs in the Environment Committee have agreed to a minimum level compromise that is very close to Council's position. Unfortunately many Member States lack the political will to demand higher environmental production standards from industry installations. Large combustion plants will now certainly have more than enough time to meet the rules", commented Holger Krahmer (ALDE, DE), after the Environment Committee approved his legislative report with 40 votes in favour, 13 against and 4 abstentions.

To reduce industrial pollution, the integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) Directive requires operators of about 52,000 industrial installations across the EU to obtain permits from Member State authorities. Permits may be granted only if environment protection requirements are met. The rules complement climate change legislation: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust are included in their scope, but not carbon dioxide. Overall environmental performance must be taken into account. The targeted reductions are intended to address a wide range of health and environmental issues, ranging from asthma to acid rain.

The proposed overhaul also aims to reduce the administrative burden on industry and public authorities, by simplifying and clarifying the current rules. This entails recasting and merging seven EU directives, including IPPC, into one. Following gaps and disparities in the implementation of current legislation, the aim is to renew health and environmental objectives and address distortions in the internal market.

Transition periods for combustion plants

The committee voted in favour of allowing Member States to grant large combustion plants, e.g. fossil fuel power stations, until mid-2019 to meet the new requirements. This is later than the originally foreseen 2016 deadline (but earlier than the Council wanted), so as to allow these so-called "transitional national plans" to run until the end of 2020. Transitional national plans will by subject to approval by the European Commission. Plants put into operation later than November 2003 are among those ineligible for the extension. The total emissions of the plants covered by transition periods must respect annual ceilings, which must be progressively lowered.

Combustion plants may also apply to be exempted from the new, more stringent rules until the end of 2020 if they operate for no longer than 12,500 hours between 2016 and that final deadline. Plants qualifying for this "limited lifetime derogation" must still meet the requirements for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust that were set under previous legislation.

Flexibility for public authorities

Public authorities will have some leeway on issuing permits, but MEPs voted to clarify the conditions on allowing derogations from following Best Available Techniques. In "a limited number of specific cases", less strict emission limit values could apply due to the local situation, technical characteristics or if the financial cost of applying Best Available Techniques would be disproportional to the environment benefits gained. There is also a requirement for the public to be informed well in advance, so they can have their say in the decision-making process.

Assessing the need for minimum requirements

MEPs want the Commission to assess the need for EU-wide minimum requirements for emission limit values, as well as for monitoring and compliance. This should be based on the overall environmental impact of the industrial activity and the extent to which Best Available Techniques have been applied. A legislative proposal on this should follow from the Commission.

Parliament's plenary vote is currently scheduled for July.

Integrated pollution prevention and control: industrial emissions, titanium dioxide industry, use of organic solvents, incineration of waste, large combustion plants (repeal. Directives 78/176/EEC, 82/883/EEC, 92/112/EEC, 96/61/EC, 1999/13/EC, 2000/76/EC and 2001/80/EC). Recast

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