Council adopts the new Directive with stricter rules on industrial emissions

The European Council voted on 8 November the adoption of the new Directive which will cut industrial emissions from large combustion plants across the EU. This legal provision represents one more step in the efforts made by the Commission to control industrial pollution, contributing to enhance citizens' protection against industrial pollution at the time of reducing air and other environmental pollution.

Despite the significant emission reductions achieved over the past two decades, fossil fuel firing combustion plants used in the energy sector are still a major source of air pollutant emissions. The Directive on industrial emissions which was put forward by the Commission in December 2009, sets stricter emission limits for the largest plants across the EU to ensure that they apply Best Available Techniques (BAT).

The resulting benefits of emission reductions run to 7-28 billion Euro per year including the reduction of premature deaths by 13,000 per annum. This represents the savings in terms of reduced health impacts of pollutants from large combustion plants on EU citizens once the costs of implementation such as the fitting of abatement equipment have been taken into account for operators. These economic benefits also include the benefits from the reduction of unnecessary administrative burden, estimated at 32 million Euro per year at EU level, which are harmful to European industry and its competitiveness in the global market.

Furthermore, the strengthened role of BAT is intended to give clear signals to industry to ensure strives to deliver the high environmental performance described in BAT Conclusions at the lowest costs. The Directive also requests Member States to actively promote emerging techniques, thereby fuelling a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement of EU industry's environmental performance. All these elements are also part of Commission's actions regarding the prevention and control of industrial emissions.

The new Directive, which updates and merges seven pieces of existing legislation, includes a number of improved mechanisms for Member States to check and enforce compliance with the new legislation. Provisions related to emission monitoring and reporting and to environmental inspections have been strongly enhanced as well as improvements regarding public access to information which was already available for public access through the European pollutant release and transfer register (E-PRTR) put in place by the Commission and the European Environmental Agency in November 2009.

Application of Best Available Techniques (BAT)

At the core of the new Directive is the strengthening of the application of Best Available Techniques (BAT), making BAT Conclusions the reference point in the permitting process. The proposal revises the minimum emission limits that apply to large combustion plants across the EU to bring them in line with BAT.

These requirements should ensure that operators of industrial installations apply BAT in a more uniform manner and that consequently a more level playing field for industry is achieved.

Once the Directive will enter into force, Member States will have two years to transpose it into their legislation. The Commission will also continue to work with Member States to try and tackle unnecessary administrative burden at the national level in their implementation of the Directive over the coming years.