The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to adopt the Industrial Emissions Directive, after agreeing a compromise position that will give power plants extra time to comply with stricter levels for air pollution.
After two-and a-half years of debate, the directive finally updates and merges seven pieces of existing legislation, including the Large Combustion Plant directive and the 1996 Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive, which sets the rules for around 52,000 industrial and agricultural installations with a high pollution potential.
The directive will place from 2016 stricter limits on emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and dust from installations as diverse as pig farms and oil refineries. Newer power stations face an earlier, 2012 deadline, for the tighter targets, although the measure excludes carbon dioxide emissions as they are already regulated by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
However, the measures are not as stringent as many MEPs and green lobbyists would have liked, with the final compromise agreeing that EU member states can use “transitional national plans” to allow large combustion plants, including fossil fuel power stations, until July 2020 to meet the rules. Moreover, some older plants may not have to meet the targets as long as they close by the end of 2023 or after operating for a total of 17,500 hours after 2016, whichever comes first.
As a trade-off, the Parliament managed to restrict the scope member states have to deviate from best available technologies (BATs), which are the basis for permitting industrial installations. All businesses covered by the directive must apply BATs to optimise their all-round environmental performance, taking into consideration their emissions to air, soil and water, as well as noise and safety.
Member states will have some leeway to ease the rules but, at the in sistence of MEPs, this will only be allowed if they can prove that the costs would be disproportionate to the environmental benefits.
German Liberal MEP Holger Krahmer, who guided the legislation through Parliament, said the compromise would, “compared to the current situation…offer more clarity and a better chance of a level playing field across Europe on environmental requirements for industrial installations”.
But he rued the deadline extension given to power plants. “It is a European tragedy that a number of outdated coal-fired power plants will be allowed to pollute for another decade,” said Krahmer. “This is also grossly unfair to member states who took early action to meet the requirements.”
The CBI, the UK’s business organisation, said the extra years were necessary to allow companies enough time to build alternative low-carbon energy sources to replace lost capacity. Neil Bentley, CBI’s director of business environment, said “the alternative would have meant the forced closure of many existing power stations without sufficient time to build replacements. This could have seriously undermined the UK’s energy security.”
Member states now need to rubberstamp Parliament’s decision in the coming months, but this is merely a formality since they have already signalled their support for the compromise position.
By. Philippa Jones
Source: Environmental Finance