News

EU puts industry interests first

[Brussels, 18th June 2010]

EEB, Europe’s largest federation of environmental citizens’ organisations, is greatly disappointed by the weak compromise deal reached today between the European Council and Parliament on the new Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). There were hopes that there would have been no further weakening [1] of this key piece of environmental legislation designed to deliver protection of air, water and soil and improve energy and resource efficiency from industrial installations. However, today’s deal looks to have scuppered those hopes.

The EEB recognises that some improvements have been made in order to fix weak and unclear provisions in the current IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) Directive. The Directive aims to promote the use of Best Available Techniques (BAT) - the state of the art techniques which achieve a high level of protection for the environment as a whole whilst being economically and technically viable - but its weaknesses enabled member states to abuse and undermine the principle that industry should meet these standards. Otherwise known as ‘derogations’, these have now been strengthened, as have soil protection provisions, inspections requirements and transparency in permitting practices. [2]

However, there is still great cause for concern: “Some countries such as UK and Italy wanted to maximise flexibility– namely derogations - that would prevent eco-innovation and allow high emissions from industry which unnecessarily damages the environment and people’s health”, said Christian Schaible, EEB Industrial Emissions Policy Officer.

National governments refused clearer and stricter criteria in the legal text that would be clarified through legally-binding criteria established by the European Commission, limiting potential abuses by member states, ensure fair play and lead to a level playing field for industry. The final text now simply refers to the legally ambiguous term ‘guidance’. “In the end we are left with a meaningless mandate for the Commission with no legal value. We are astonished that the European Commission did not defend the European Parliament’s position and instead sided with member states,” continued Schaible.

EEB particularly condemns the inflexibility and stubbornness of the UK, Italy, Poland and some other new member states, whilst the Spanish Presidency should have tried harder, when it came to minimum rules for the oldest large combustion plants. These are responsible for about 90% of industrial nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide emissions, air pollutants still critically damaging air quality and having direct impacts on human health. [3]

“Some operators have been running some of the oldest and dirtiest large combustion plants for more than three decades and the EU continues to allow them to avoid meeting the best environmental standards possible through Best Available Techniques. Instead of bringing an end to this practice, EU policy makers have now decided to reward these operators with the opportunity to avoid the techniques, through derogations, and fill their pockets with money whilst European citizens are left to pick up the bill to cover both health and environmental costs”, said Schaible. [4]

Member states wanting to allow operators to delay meeting stricter emission limit values - the so called “transitional national plans” - would need to communicate their plans no later than 2013 to the European Commission, who shall evaluate and possibly object to them.

“The only right thing left for the Commission to do is to systematically object to any plans submitted” said Schaible, and concluded that “we are confident that the Commission will not allow Best Available Techniques based permitting to be undermined. This would help achieve the EU’s air quality objectives, and prevent discrimination in the internal electricity market. They need to stop these dinosaurs acting as a barrier to cleaner energy production.”


Contacts:
Christian Schaible, EEB Industrial Emissions Policy Officer, +32 22891094, christian.schaible@eeb.org

Simon Nazer, EEB Press Officer, +32 2289 1309, press@eeb.org

Editors notes:
[1] See previous press release: http://www.eeb.org/index.cfm/news-events/news/meps-move-towards-reducing-industrial-pollution/ and http://www.eeb.org/EEB/index.cfm/news-events/news/eu-parliament-must-resist-pressure-to-weaken-industrial-emissions-directive/

[2] According to the deal permit writers wanting to grant a derogation from setting Emission Limit Values (ELVs) in line with BAT performance, will have to provide evidence that the implementation of BAT would lead to disproportionate costs compared to the environmental benefits due to certain local conditions, which will be subject to public scrutiny.

[3] In 2001, the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) was revised to gradually limit pollution emitted from installations such as coal-fired power plants. However, despite 15 years’ warning that a stricter nitrogen oxide Emission Limit Value (ELV) will apply from 2016, several EU countries and their power companies are yet arguing for more time. The LCPD is now being re-cast with other EU industrial legislation into a comprehensive IED. The Commission and the European Parliament’s rapporteur Holger Krahmer have initially concluded that existing plants have had their transition period and should no longer be exempted from the ELVs after 2015, as is already stipulated by the existing LCPD.

[4] The Council has introduced significant derogation and delay mechanisms in order to enable some operators to still not comply with BAT associated emission levels set out in the LCP BAT reference document adopted in 2006 for further decades.

DEAL: Council “conceeded” by reducing the Limited Life Derogation hours from 20.000 to 17.500 hours (an operator has to close the plant when these hours have been used up), and agreed to end the delay mechanism for LCP plants to comply with stricter emission limit values (TNP) 6 months earlier i.e. on 30 June 2020, instead of 31 December 2020 in the Council 1st reading position but initially proposed for 1st January 2016 by the Commission.
The deadline for the specific derogation provision for district heating plants was also cut by one year i.e. 2023 instead of 2024.

The EP wanted to limit until 2018 the possibility for lignite power plants to circumvent Emission Limit Values (ELVs) for sulphur dioxide by using desulphurisation rates instead, which was rejected but accepted a review clause.

A compliance mechanism introduced by EP that would have also resulted in a significant emission reduction of dust, NOx and SO2 from LCPS by about 10% was also dropped in the deal.

On the positive side the deal recognises that Member States can adopt greenhouse gas emissions requirements for installations covered by the IED, a welcome legal clarification supporting Member States wanting to set installation-specific CO2 emission rules in order to speed up the phase-out of unabated coal-fired power plants.

For more info, please contact:

Christian SCHAIBLE

Policy Manager: Industrial Production

Tel: +32 (0) 2 289 10 90

Email