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Questions and Answers on the Commission's proposal for the revision of industrial emissions legislation in the EU.

European Commission - MEMO/07/623   21/12/2007

Other available languages: none

MEMO/07/623

Brussels, 21 December 2007

Questions and Answers on the Commission's proposal for the revision of industrial emissions legislation in the EU.

1) What is the Commission proposing in the new legislation on industrial emissions?

The Commission's proposal focuses on four key problems (see question 4) identified during a two-year review process when data was collected through an extensive programme with ten studies and continuous consultation with stakeholders (information about the data collection and consultation exercises undertaken is available on http://circa.europa.eu/Public/irc/env/ippc_rev/library).

Firstly, the Commission proposes to overhaul seven existing pieces of legislation on industrial emissions[1], moulding them into a single directive (for more information on existing legislation, see questions 8 and 9). This directive improves the clarity and coherence of the legislation and reduces the administrative burden through combined requirements on granting permits and streamlined reporting.

Secondly, the new directive improves and clarifies the concept of Best Available Techniques (BATs, see question 10). Decisions that set permit conditions outside BATs can only be taken in specific cases and need to be justified and documented. This will lead to a more coherent and EU-wide application of Best Available Techniques. In addition, the directive tightens current minimum emission limit values for large combustion plants to ensure that emission reductions needed for achieving the objectives of the Commission's Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution are carried out (see question 5).

Thirdly, the proposal introduces minimum provisions on environmental inspections of installations, the review of permit granting conditions, and reporting of compliance and soil protection. Incentives for the development and promotion of environmentally-friendly technologies are also included.

Finally, the scope of the legislation is extended to include additional activities such as combustion plants of between 20 and 50 MegaWatts (MW), production of wood-based panels and preservation of wood. The Commission proposal also clarifies the scope of certain activities already covered by existing legislation, such as waste treatment and food production.

Although it is not included in the legislative proposal, the Commission will continue to work on developing possible EU-wide rules on emissions trading for NOx and SO2, thus building on experience gained through the implementation of the EU's carbon trading scheme.

2) What are the expected health and environmental benefits of the Commission proposal?

The Commission proposal will bring substantial benefits for human health and the environment. Significant improvements in Member States' performance are expected as a result of basing the granting of permits conditional on Best Available Techniques (BATs). This will have positive knock-on effects on health and the environment, greatly exceeding the costs installations will incur to comply with the new directive.

For example, the net benefits from Large Combustion Plants (LCP) – taking into account health benefits and compliance costs – would be between €7 and 28 billion a year, including saving 13,000 and 125,000 premature deaths and years of life lost, respectively.

Extending the legislation to cover new activities will also lead to further environmental and health benefits. For example, including a larger number of combustion installations by lowering the threshold installations the directive applies to from 50 MW to 20 MW will lead to net environmental and health benefits – taking into account compliance and administrative costs – of between €732 million and €1.6 billion.

The proposal is also expected to play a key role in stimulating the development of environmental technologies, thus allowing the EU to be at the leading edge of this increasingly important sector.

3) What is the expected impact of the proposal on the simplification and reduction of administrative burden?

Current legislation on industrial pollution is complex and sometimes inconsistent. A single directive on industrial emissions will provide a clear, coherent and simplified legal framework. It will address the inconsistencies that exist in current legislation and will also reduce administrative costs, most notably by simplifying the granting of permits, reducing reporting requirements by operators and streamlining reporting by Member States.

The Commission's review identified certain unnecessary administrative costs that could be reduced at Member State level as part of the implementation of the legislation. The Commission will therefore establish Action Programmes with Member States to reduce the administrative burden at national, regional and local levels.

The main impact of the proposal on administrative burden is expected to result in:

  • Alleviating the administrative burden by about €30 million/year as a result of combined permitting and €2 million/year through streamlined reporting and monitoring.
  • significant administrative cost reductions at Member State level – estimated at between €150 to 300 million/year. Most opportunities to cut the administrative burden are found at the national or regional level.

The entire Commission proposal is expected to reduce the administrative burden by about €105 to €255 million a year.

Administrative simplification will also lead to environmental and human health benefits, as clearer links between BATs and sectoral requirements lead to a better uptake of BATs.

4) What are the shortcomings of the current legislation?

The Commission has analysed in detail the quality of industrial pollution permits issued so far and has also examined the permitting, compliance and enforcement regimes adopted by Member States.

On the basis of a two-year process of data collection involving an extensive programme of studies and continuous consultation of stakeholders, the Commission has concluded that the key principles of the current IPPC directive – in particular the integrated approach based on Best Available Techniques – still offer a sound platform for the future development of EU legislation on industrial emissions.

However, there are important shortcomings in the implementation of the current legislation that hinder the full exploitation of the environmental potential originally intended by the directive that render enforcement at EU level very difficult. The four key issues highlighted are:

  • Insufficient implementation of the Best Available Techniques (BATs).
  • Limitations to enforcement and environmental improvements that hinder environmental protection and the stimulation of innovation.
  • Unnecessary administrative burdens due to the complexity and incoherence of parts of the current legal framework.
  • Insufficient scope and unclear provisions of the current IPPC Directive that could hinder the achievement of the Thematic Strategies' objectives.

Another issue that came up in the review concerned the limitations on the use of flexible instruments such as NOx and SO2 emission trading systems within the present legislation. This issue will be explored further but separately from the directive's revision.

5) Emissions from industry have gone down, so why does industry need to do more?

The Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution[2] includes clear objectives for the reduction of a number of important air pollutants in order to achieve levels of air quality that do not give rise to significant negative impacts on and risks to human health and the environment. The Strategy was developed under the 6th Environmental Action Programme and contributes to the long term objective of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive[3].

While industrial emissions have decreased over the past few years they continue to have a significant impact on the environment and need to be reduced further. The largest industrial installations still account for a considerable share of total emissions of key atmospheric pollutants (83% for sulphur dioxide (SO2), 34% for nitrogen oxides (NOx), 43% for dust and 55% for volatile organic compounds (VOC)).

Member States' projected air emissions will greatly exceed the 2020 targets of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution unless timely action is taken. All sources of pollution need to be reduced. Based on the Commission assessments, achieving the objectives set will only be possible with the full application of BATs by industry.

Industrial installations are also the source of emissions to water and soil and generate waste and use substantial amounts of energy. Strengthening the application of BATs will prevent and control emissions of dangerous substances to water. They will also contribute to the objectives of the Water Framework Directive and the related Commission's initiatives to protect surface water from pollution[4].

The Thematic Strategy on Soil[5] emphasises the need to prevent the contamination of soils from dangerous substances. The Commission proposal harmonises the obligation to avoid pollution risks, to return installation sites to a 'satisfactory state' and to periodically monitor soil on sites.

6) Why did the Commission launch a review of the IPPC Directive before the date of implementation for existing installations (30 October 2007)?

The review of the legislation should not hamper the correct and full implementation of the IPPC Directive and the sectoral directives in their current form. This remains a high priority for the Commission. However, it is good regulatory governance to review, on the basis of implementation experiences, a piece of legislation that was adopted over 10 years ago.

Achieving compliance by the deadline of 30 October 2007 for existing installations has required a preparatory phase of several years with permits issued sufficiently early to allow technical upgrades and changes. However, by mid-2006 the Commission found that only 50% of installations in the EU (see question 7) had been granted permits. This is where a number of shortcomings were identified thus leading to the review of the IPPC Directive and related legislation (see question 4).

In addition, investigations undertaken by the Commission revealed that the quality of the permits issued was also a problem, in particular as regards the implementation of BATs. There was no discernable difference between those sectors where the BAT Reference Documents had been adopted several years before the deadline of the Directive and those that had been issued more recently. Furthermore, the analysis of the Member States' projected emissions, as provided under the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution, showed that full implementation of BATs for large combustion plants was not foreseen by 2020.

The Commission therefore concluded that delaying the review of the current legal framework would only postpone the streamlining and the necessary strengthening, and would lead to an unacceptable delay in achieving significant environmental and health improvements.

In addition, the revision was also one of the key demands from the 2003 stakeholder consultation on the IPPC Directive and the call for Better Regulation[6].

7) What has emerged from the monitoring of implementation of the present legislation?

Given the shortcomings in implementation of the legislation identified by the Commission, and in particular the IPPC Directive, action needs to be taken. The late implementation of the legislation is unacceptable, especially in situations where further contributions to emission reductions are necessary to meet environmental objectives as indicated, as in the Commission's Air Thematic Strategy for instance (see question 5).

It is clear that efforts made to date will not enable all Member States to comply with the directive deadline of 30 October 2007. This is an unacceptable situation. The Commission will therefore have to consider action to ensure compliance with permitting as soon as possible.

The Commission will continue to collect information from Member States and decisions will be made on the basis of such information. Where required the Commission will pursue all necessary actions to ensure that the Directive is correctly transposed and implemented, bringing infringement cases if necessary.

For more information about the state of implementation, see MEMO/07/441.

Furthermore, the Commission has revised and refocused its current IPPC Action Plan[7] for the period 2008-2010, using the following 5 key actions.

  • Action 1 – Ensure full transposition of the legislation on industrial emissions. The Commission will be requesting information from Member States on the state of their implementation of the IPPC Directive and the sectoral Directives, in particular the Solvents Emissions and Large Combustion Plants Directives. The Commission will pursue all necessary actions to ensure that the Directives are fully and correctly transposed, including through infringement cases.
  • Action 2 – Support Member States in their implementation of the legislation. This will incorporate aspects of enhanced information exchange, guidance development, visits to authorities and training.
  • Action 3 – Enhanced monitoring and compliance checks of the application of the legislation on industrial emissions. The Commission will continue to monitor the number of IPPC permits issued and updated, and where required investigate the system of monitoring and inspection at IPPC installations.
  • Action 4 – Improve data collection for review of BREFs and create stronger links with the Research Framework Programme. The review of the BAT Reference Documents (BREFs) will continue based on the agreed work programme and in close cooperation with stakeholders. The Commission will ensure closer links between the BREF elaboration process, the European Research Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.
  • Action 5 – Support Member States in cutting administrative burdens. The Commission will organise an information exchange with Member States on the establishment of specific Action Programmes on cutting administrative burdens at the Member State level for the permitting and control of IPPC installations.

8) What are the objectives and provisions of the current IPPC Directive?

The Directive concerning Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) was adopted in 1996 and had to be transposed into the national legislation of EU Member States by 30 October 1999. This was also the date of application for new installations, while all existing installations had to fully comply by 30 October 2007.

The aim of this key law on industrial emissions is to achieve a high level of environmental protection through the integrated permitting of industrial and agricultural installations. It covers a wide range of activities, including the production of metals, the processing of minerals, chemical manufacture, poultry and pig farming, waste incineration and fuel combustion in large combustion plants. About 52,000 installations all over EU-27 currently fall under the scope of the IPPC Directive.

The permit system to be put in place by Member States aims to ensure that all of the relevant environmental issues for an installation are considered in an integrated way. This includes the following:

  • operators of installations take preventive measures against pollution, in particular through the application of the Best Available Techniques;
  • no significant pollution (air, water, land, noise, odour etc.) is caused;
  • waste that cannot be avoided is recovered or disposed of safely;
  • energy is used efficiently;
  • accidents are prevented and their consequences are limited;
  • the site is returned to a satisfactory state when the installation closes.

Member States must ensure that permits issued under the IPPC Directive include emission limit values based on Best Available Techniques. Operators of the installations concerned must obtain and comply with the permit conditions in order to continue to undertake their activity.

Permits must not prescribe the use of any particular techniques or specific technology, and they may take into account the technical characteristics of the installation concerned, its geographical location and the local environmental conditions. Most Member States delegate their obligations under the directive to regional or local authorities.

9) What are the sectoral directives related to industrial emissions covered by the Commission's proposal?

The current EU legal framework on industrial emissions comprises the IPPC Directive and six “sectoral" directives, namely the Large Combustion Plants Directive[8], the Waste Incineration Directive[9], the Solvents Emissions Directive[10] and three directives related to the production of Titanium Dioxide[11].

The sectoral directives regulate the emissions (generally to air and in some cases also to water) from certain industrial activities. They define in particular specific requirements (generally emission limit values and monitoring provisions) for certain pollutants for the installations concerned. For the installations covered by both the IPPC Directive and by the sectoral directives, the latter set only the minimum requirements that apply without prejudice to the IPPC Directive. This means that the IPPC Directive may require stricter or additional conditions than would apply under the sectoral directives alone.

Assessment of the implementation of the sectoral directives will continue. For the Waste Incineration Directive, the Commission has provided its assessment of implementation within the Communication issued alongside the legislative proposal. This indicates that in general incineration plants meet the air emission limit values set in the Directive and that the implementation of the Waste Incineration Directive has brought significant improvement in the control of waste incinerators across the EU.

The Commission will also consider the efforts that have been made by Member States to meet the implementation deadlines for both the Solvent Emissions and Large Combustion Plants Directives.

10) What are Best Available Techniques (BATs)?

Best Available Techniques (BATs) are defined in the IPPC Directive as the most effective techniques to achieve a high level of environmental protection, taking into account the costs and benefits. BATs do not only refer to the technology used at an installation, but also to the way the installation is designed, built, operated and maintained.

In the determination of the Best Available Techniques (BATs), the authorities that issue permits have to take into account the BAT Reference Documents (BREFs) adopted by the European Commission. These BREFs are based on an exchange of information through technical working groups consisting of experts from industry, Member State authorities, research institutes and NGOs. This exchange is coordinated by the Commission's European IPPC Bureau in Seville (http://eippcb.jrc.es/), which is part of the Institute for Prospective Technology Studies at EU Joint Research Centre in Seville (Spain).

This process has resulted in the adoption and publication by the Commission of 31 BREFs. The BREFs describe what is considered to be a BAT at EU level for each activity covered by the directive. The executive summaries of the BREFs are also translated into the official EU languages[12]. The BREFs will be reviewed in the coming years to ensure that they stay up-to-date with technological developments.
Further information on the IPPC Directive and the sectoral sirectives is available at:
http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ippc/index.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/stationary.htm#1

For more information see about the state of implementation of the IPPC Directive, see also MEMO/07/441.


[1] Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) and 6 so-called sectoral directives for large combustion plants, waste incineration, activities using organic solvents and titanium dioxide production.

[2] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/cafe/index.htm

[3] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/ceilings.htm

[4] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-dangersub/surface_water.htm

[5] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/soil/index.htm

[6] See http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ippc/com_communication.htm

[7] See http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ippc/ippc_implementation.htm

[8] Directive 2001/80/EC on the limitation of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants

[9] Directive 2000/76/EC on the incineration of waste

[10] Directive 1999/13/EC on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain activities and installations

[11] Directives 78/176/EEC, 82/883/EEC and 92/112/EEC related to the titanium dioxide industry

[12] http://circa.europa.eu/Public/irc/env/ippc_brefs/library


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