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Environment: Commission urges Spain to comply with Court ruling on industrial permits

Commission Européenne - IP/11/432   06/04/2011

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IP/11/432

Brussels, 6 April 2011

Environment: Commission urges Spain to comply with Court ruling on industrial permits

The Commission is urging Spain to comply with an EU Court of Justice ruling concerning permits for industrial installations. Despite Spain being condemned by the Court in November 2010, more than 100 plants continue to operate without updated permits that comply with EU rules designed to prevent industrial pollution. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending Spain a letter of formal notice requesting the full implementation of the judgement. In the absence of a satisfactory response, Spain could face a second court referral and financial penalties.

Under European law, industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential must be licensed. The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive required Member States by 30 October 2007 to issue new permits or revise existing permits for all industrial installations that were in operation before 30 October 1999. Permits are only issued if a number of environmental criteria are met.

On 18 November 2010 the EU Court of Justice ruled that Spain had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Directive as a number of industrial installations were operating without updated permits. According to the latest information available, this is still the case for more than 100 plants. The Commission is concerned with the slow pace of progress and is urging Spain to fully comply with the ruling. Spain has two months to respond.

Installations must have the correct permits to ensure they meet the strict requirements and hence highest protection to human health and the environment. Large industrial installations account for a considerable proportion of total emissions of key atmospheric pollutants, and have major environmental impacts. Air pollution can have numerous consequences from respiratory problems to premature death and damage to ecosystems.

Background

The Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control Directive protects citizens by providing an EU-wide standard for licensing industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential. Permits can only be issued if certain environmental conditions are met, with companies themselves bearing responsibility for preventing and reducing any pollution they may cause. The permitting process ensures that the most appropriate pollution-prevention measures are used, and that waste is recycled or disposed of in the least polluting way possible.

The Commission has previously taken 9 member states to Court for infringements of the IPPC Directive (see IP/10/1579, IP/09/1649, IP/10/1412 and IP/11/305).

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

For more information on the IPPC Directive and its implementation:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/pollutants/stationary/ippc/index.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ippc/ippc_indic_permits.htm

See also MEMO/11/220


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