Brussels, 10 January 2002
Commission Adopts Reference Documents on Best Available Techniques
The European Commission has formally adopted the first reference documents on best available techniques for large industrial installations in accordance with Council Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC). The 8 documents provide important background information for the implementation of the Directive. Member States' authorities should use them when granting operating permits, which will be compulsory for some 60,000 large installations in the EU and in the Accession Countries.
Commenting on the decision, Mrs Margot Wallström, the Environment Commissioner, said: "These documents indicate that many European companies have still some way to go to bring their plants up to standard. The reference documents are the result of a thorough assessment involving in some cases up to 200 to 300 experts from the industries concerned, public authorities and research institutes as well as environmental organisations. It is also a highly transparent process, every single draft version is published on the Internet so that anyone can comment on it". She added "The implementation of this Directive will not only result in better protection of the environment and public health throughout Europe but also create a more level playing field in the internal market. We also know that people in places like India, Australia, South-Africa, Hong-Kong and Kazakhstan have consulted our documents in order to find out what the state-of-the-art environmental technology is."
The 8 reference documents adopted concern the production of iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, cement and lime, pulp and paper, glass, chlorine and caustic soda as well as the processing of ferrous metals and the design and operation of industrial cooling systems. The documents describe measures to substitute chemicals used in processes, introduce cleaner and more efficient processes, minimise waste generation, install and optimise abatement of air emissions and water discharges, reduce noise etc. For example, the reference documents on the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda concludes that the membrane cell technology is the best available technology because it has less hazardous emissions and higher energy efficiency than mercury technology and asbestos-diaphragm technology.
In the next months, the Commission plans to adopt another four documents (two more concerning the chemical industry, one on refineries and one on tanneries). All in all, some 30 to 35 reference documents will be published and they will also be regularly revised.
The IPPC Directive (Council Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control) is one of the foundation stones of the Community's environmental legislation. The Directive applies to a significant number of mainly industrial activities with a high pollution potential covering, for example, the energy sector, the production and processing of metals, the mineral and chemical industries, waste management facilities and food production. It also applies to intensive livestock farming. It seeks to prevent or reduce pollution of the air, water and land through a comprehensive permitting system that assesses every environmental medium. In addition, the Directive's scope covers the generation of waste, energy use, accident prevention and site clean-up. Since the end of 1999 new installations are required to have a permit issued in compliance with the Directive. The same goes for existing installations where the owner plans to carry out a substantial change of the plant. Other existing installations have until 2007 to receive a proper IPPC permit and apply the best available techniques.
The European Commission organises an exchange of information on best available techniques (BAT) in the industry sectors covered by the Directive. The results of this activity take the form of reference documents also called 'BREFs' containing conclusions on the techniques that presently are considered to fulfil the BAT criteria according to the Directive. They are intended as guidance to the authorities responsible for issuing permits to installations that fall within the scope of the Directive. When determining BAT in a specific case, the authority should also take local factors into account such as the technical characteristics of the installation concerned (for example the age of the equipment), its geographical location and the local environmental conditions.
There is a special IPPC Bureau at the Commission's Joint Research Centre in Sevilla, Spain. For each BREF, the Bureau co-ordinates a working group composed of experts from industry, authorities, institutes and environmental organizations. The BREFs are published on the Internet site http://eippcb.jrc.es.