Enlarging the Environment
Newsletter from the European Commission on environmental approximation
Published by DG XI Issue No 4 June 1997
This issue is dedicated to the implementation of the IPPC directive and other questions concerning industrial installations and emissions such as the proposal on limitation of emissions of solvents and other VOCs which is expected to be adopted by the Environment Council this week. The next issue of Enlarging the Environment (July) will feature an interview with Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard on enlargement and environmental approximation after the conclusion of the IGC and the adoption of the Commission's opinions.
" Our major task for the next five to 10 years will be to ensure the implementation of the integrated pollution prevention and control directive, known as IPPC. That is the key issue for our unit," says Herbert Aichinger, head of unit for industrial installations and emissions in DG XI.
The IPPC directive covers almost all parts of industry and the Commission needs to ensure good implementation in all Member States. The Directive was adopted in September 1996 and should be transposed into law by October 1999 and fully implemented for all existing plants in 2007.
IPPC breaks new ground in Commission legislation on environmental matters. Traditionally environmental regulation looks at separate concerns, like the air, water or soil pollution and other aspects, such as waste management - looking at problems from different points of view.
The IPPC directive is different. It brings all these elements together in one Directive and attempts for the first time to bring co-operation and coherence to regulation and to the monitoring by authorities in each Member State. In many Member States different authorities are responsible for various areas of environmental concerns, resulting in a lack of co-ordination. IPPC puts forward an integrated approach which means that even if different authorities are involved, they must co-ordinate their activities. This will be beneficial for industry in particular as such an approach should mean less bureaucracy.
This July a meeting on general implementation questions relating to the Directive will be held at which Member States will exchange information on all issues connected with IPPC and discuss how to achieve co-ordination.
"The ideal which the Commission would like to achieve is a one-stop-shop for industry where industry can apply for one permit from one responsible authority which can issue an integrated permit. While the Commission cannot insist on this approach, we can promote it," says Mr. Aichinger.
But IPPC is about more than just issuing permits. The other innovation is the introduction of the concept of "best available techniques", known as BAT (see article in this issue).
BAT involves a whole range of procedures, techniques, technologies and other areas like maintenance, operating standards, de-commissioning of plants and energy and efficiency audits, for example. BAT covers a bundle of activities affecting all environmental aspects of a plant's or industry's operations. Pollution in this respect includes everything from traditional substances to heat, noise and vibrations as well as more difficult-to-define areas.
Companies will be obliged to use BAT, but to do that, a free flow of information on new technologies and techniques needs to be established.
Under the Directive the Commission is required to organise an information exchange on BAT together with Member States and industry. This is another way the Directive is innovative. The information exchange is the central plank in implementing the Directive. Industry becomes an equal partner with the Member States on the exchange of information on BAT.
The Commission undertakes to publish the results of the information exchange every three years in the form of BAT reference documents, known as a BREF.
An IPPC bureau has been established in Seville to set up an information management system for the documents (see article page 3). There are four main players involved in the information exchange:
*DGXI which has overall responsibility
*the IPPC bureau, set up at the end 1996, at the Institute of Perspective Technological Studies (IPTS), part of the Joint Research Centre. The bureau provides technical assistance and does the basic work for the exchange
*the information exchange forum which is a committee of official representatives of the information exchange from Member States, industry and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Although NGOs are not specifically mentioned in the Directive, the Commission believes it is better to involve them in the process at an early stage.
*the technical working groups are made up of experts. This is where the information exchange really takes place. Experts provide information, BAT studies, details on specific sectors and current emission levels. The groups meet at least twice for each sector (money for more meetings is not available), but most of the real exchange of information happens in-between the official meetings.
The Commission is looking at ways of increasing the flow of information through the use of electronic mail and Internet discussion groups.
"We need to get the message across that the EU is not a closed system. Industry is worried that they will lose competitiveness vis-à-vis the US and Japan through implementation of the IPPC directive. In most cases we discovered that when good environmental standards are fulfilled, competitiveness is very high - it goes in parallel. A producer who meets very low emissions and applies BAT normally is competitive, not just in the EU but outside. It is also important to say that industry is committed to the process of co-operation at all levels in know-how and expertise."
The definition of BAT, however, is difficult to pin down. Who decides what is BAT is also important. Local or national authorities may be given that task, depending on the method decided upon by each Member State. The BAT reference document, which will be given to all Member State authorities, will have to be taken into account when determining BAT. "It is up to the individual authorities how they interpret BAT. What the Directive tries to do is set out good guidance to these authorities," says Mr. Aichinger.
Authorities are not allowed to proscribe a particular technology, but determine BAT and set conditions and emission values on the basis of the BAT. If industry can meet these conditions and values in another way, then it is free to do so under the Directive.
"This approach encourages innovation. It should be good for industry because it offers flexibility. It is good for the environment because it presents an integrated, optimised solution for environment as a whole and does not focus on just one method," says Mr. Aichinger.
For the candidate countries, many of which are in the process of setting up regulatory systems, IPPC offers a way of introducing an integrated approach to pollution and control from the start, rather than trying to bring co-ordination in after the systems are set up. "When there is no integration there can be inertia in the system. The candidate countries can develop an integrated approach as they set up their regulatory systems. This should help them to comply with IPPC," says Mr Aichinger.
What to do with SMEs?
At the moment most small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not covered by the IPPC Directive with a few exceptions, for example, in chemicals. Extending the IPPC Directive to include SMEs is not deemed to be a feasible option. There is also strong opposition from Member States to a second Directive just for SMEs. So the Commission is now looking at a different approach which would focus on specific sectors and special environmental problems related to SMEs but incorporating the general principles of IPPC.
New VOC rules to be adopted by Council
The proposed Directive on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds caused by the use of organic solvents in industrial activities (97/C99/02) is expected to be adopted by the Council by the end of June.
The main aim of the Directive is to prevent or reduce direct and indirect effects of emissions of volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs) which could harm the environment as well as present a risk to public health. The annexes to the directive define its scope (detailing exactly what processes and activities which are covered by the directive, the actual solvents and other materials covered, the thresholds and emission controls specifications and outline the reduction schemes applicable).
The Directive extends the protection of the environment into a number of different industrial sectors. Member States will be required to set in place national plans on how to reach the reduction targets fixed by the Directive, but it will be up to the individual states to chose the measures they wish to use.
New proposal on waste incineration
Another problem being tackled in the unit is waste incineration - a very complex issue given its cross-border nature. There is already a Directive on the incineration of hazardous waste (94/67/EC). A proposal for a new Directive on the incineration of non-hazardous waste is expected before the end of the year. At the same time the existing Directive is being amended on water discharges in order to introduce BAT.
Update of legislation on large combustion plants
The existing Directive (1988) is to be revised with new emission limit values based on BAT set for nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and dust. Installations will need to meet national ceilings which will be updated in line with the acidification strategy. Big gas turbines will also now come under the scope of the Directive.
A Proposal for the new Directive is expected to be adopted by the Commission in October and then handed to the Council. The initiative will have a considerable impact on the electrical production market and power generation in general.
The unit is also addressing some horizontal issues such as environmental efficiency in industry. In this area a revision of EMAS (environment management audit scheme) is being prepared for 1998. This is a voluntary programme where industry, if it meets the set requirements, can be registered as an approved EMAS producer. This can be beneficial in advertising and in raising awareness of environmental performance.
The existing regulation will be revised and its scope extended to other fields, such as tourism and banking. "The idea is to extend the scheme not just to cover industrial installations, but to see possible application in other areas," says Mr Aichinger. "We are looking at how we can extend it but keep the continuity. It is very interesting to see how will be possible. It is already a very successful scheme."
Dioxins and POPs
The unit will also be addressing the issue of critical substances like dioxins. The aim is to reduce emissions of dioxins by 90 per cent by the year 2005. "At the moment we are trying to find the most important emission sources, then do a cost analysis and try to address the question of what instruments are needed to reduce emissions. We need to collect new emission data," explains Mr Aichinger.
A position paper on persistent organic pollutants, POPs, from industrial and other sources is also being prepared. This would cover pollutants which are persistent and have a long-life, such as pesticides or PCBs (poly-chorinated biphenols which are emitted, for example, by electrical power stations). A UN-ECE protocol has already been prepared on this issue and the Commission is preparing its own action plan.
Implementation and enforcement a priority
While there are many ideas in the pipeline, Mr Aichinger believes the most important activity of the unit is to ensure that existing Directives are being properly implemented. "We don't just have an eye on new initiatives. It is important to look at Directives already in force and not properly implemented. Member States need to implement, enforce and check the enforcement. These are the crucial points. We still discover Directives which are not properly implemented. For example, almost every week we come across a gap in implementation in Member States concerning the Directive on pollution of the aquatic environment by dangerous substances, 76/464/EEC. It is important to monitor closely the implementation of legislation. Otherwise it's just a nice piece of paper," concludes Mr Aichinger.
The definition of best available techniques (BAT) is found in Article 2, paragraph 11 of the IPPC directive 96/61/EC. BAT means the most effective and advanced stage in the development of activities and their methods of operation which indicate the practical suitability of particular techniques for providing in principle the basis for emission limit values designed to prevent the basis for emission limit values designed to prevent and, where that is not practicable, generally to reduce emissions and the impact on the environment as a whole.
Techniques includes both the technology used and the way in which the installation is designed, built maintained, operated and de-commissioned.
Available means those techniques developed on a scale which allows implementation in the relevant industrial sector, under economically and technically viable conditions, taking into consideration the costs and advantages whether or not the techniques are used or produced inside the member state as long as they are reasonably accessible to the operator.
Best means the most effective method to achieve a high, general level of protection of the environment as a whole.
Annex I of the directive lists the categories of industrial activities and the threshold values (usually referring to production capacities or output). The general categories covered include energy industries, production and processing of metals, mineral industry, chemical industry, waste management and other activities. These include plants producing pulp and paper, the pre-treatment of dying of fibres or textiles, tanning of hides and skins, slaughterhouses, disposal or recycling of animal carcasses, installations for intensive rearing of poultry or pigs and installations for the surface treatment of substances using organic solvents or for the production of carbon or electrographite.
Exchange of information on BAT
The Commission has set up a forum on information exchange for best available techniques (BAT). The first meeting of the forum took place in December 1996 with the participation of Member States, industrial and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs). At the launch the Commission presented the working procedures for the information exchange and established a support bureau at the Joint Research Centre in Seville.
The exchange will publish documents in all industrial sectors covered by the Directive. These papers will provide the latest information on BAT and on emission standards they can achieve. This year four industrial sectors will be investigated: iron and steel, pulp and paper, cement and lime and cooling and vacuum systems. The work in 1998 will concern ferrous metals processing, primary non-ferrous metals (including light metals), secondary non-ferrous metals, glass, chloralkali, textiles and tanneries.
The timetable for the exchange from 1999-2001 is provisional. In 1999 the work will focus on refineries, basic organic chemicals, gaseous inorganic chemicals, fertilisers, batch organic chemicals and intensive livestock farming.
Continuing work in 2000 will deal with coal liquefaction, asbestos, ceramics, inorganic chemicals (including acids), other inorganics, hazardous waste incineration, slaughterhouses and animal carcasses and food and milk.
In 2001 the draft work programme is set to examine large combustion plants, surface treatment, municipal waste incineration and processing, landfills and solvent sectors.
Round up of meetings relevant to environmental approximation between now and October 1997
July 1-4 Second approximation mission (DG XI Desk Officers) Slovak Republic July 1 EU-Romania Association Sub-Committee - Environment, Energy, Regional Development Romania July 7-9 Second approximation mission (DG XI Desk Officers) Hungary July 7-10 Second approximation mission (DG XI Desk Officers) Czech Republic July 15 Adoption by Commission of Agenda 2000 (which includes opinions on membership applications of CEECs) July 15-18 Second approximation mission (DG XI Desk Officers) Estonia July 16-17 TAIEX workshop on environment and transport, attended by members of parliaments and councils of CEECs Brussels July 22-24 Second approximation mission (DG XI Desk Officers) Latvia August 25-28 Second approximation mission (DG XI Desk Officers) Bulgaria August 25-29 EC/OECD/IAEA Advanced training on the convergence of legislation in CEEC with EU and international nuclear law (Radiation Protection and Safety) Dubrovnik, Croatia August 27-29 Second approximation mission (DG XI Desk Officers) Lithuania September 8 Third Informal Meeting of Ms. Ritt Bjerregaard with the Environment Ministers of the associated countries Brussels September 10-14 Visit of Ms Ritt Bjerregaard to Russia Russia October 8-10 UN/ECE workshop on economic instruments Czech Republic October 16 Environment Council under Luxembourg Presidency Luxembourg October 23 Joint CEEC State Secretaries/EPRG (Environment Policy Review Group) meeting Brussels
an experienced newcomer
Herbert Aichinger, head of unit XI.E.1, is a newcomer to the European Commission, but familiar with the problems of industrial installations. Prior to joining the Commission in May 1996, Mr Aichinger worked at the Austrian Environment Ministry and took part in EU membership negotiations.
"As a chemist I did not find the work here completely new - things like IPPC, the large combustion plants Directive and the VOCs proposal were already familiar," says Mr Aichinger. His experience with pre-accession and accession negotiations in Austria may, he believes, help him in his dealings with the present 10 candidate countries from central and eastern Europe.
"I have already had some missions in the area - to Poland and Hungary. These countries are very interested in environmental problems and eager to hear how they can comply with EU practices. They are especially concerned with regulations on large combustion plants, integrated pollution prevention and control and environmental management audit schemes," concludes Mr Aichinger.
Working with Mr.Aichinger in XI.E.1 are
Klaus Krisor Head of the sector dealing with industrial hazards and eco-audits. Leopoldo Rubinacci Economic analysis, polluting emissions register, SMEs Gernot Schnabl Legal issues Dominique Klein VOCs, co-ordination of activities with central and eastern Europe, international conventions for the prevention of pollution. Alberto Marcolino directives on incineration of dangerous wastes (94/67) and non-dangerous wastes (89/369 and 89/429) Peter Wicks IPPC, information exchange BAT and revision of directive 88/609 Juan Moreno Acedo Technical assistance, BAT notes, implementation of IPPC Valérie Drezet-Humez Eco-management and enviromental audit and revision of regulation 1836/93 EMAS Jürgen Wettig and Samuel Porter Seveso I (directive 82/501/EEC) and Seveso II (directive 96/82/EC) Kathrin Tierney International conventions and legal isssues related to industrial emissions Samuel Porter Preparation of guidelines on industrial hazards, dir. 96/82/EC. Jon Faragher Technical aspects of EMAS, preparation of technical guidelines Daniel Mailliet Large combustion plants directive, technical aspects of IMPEL Elisabeth McDonnell
will 1 September be replaced by
Water pollution in general and the directive on dangerous substances (76/464) Sjoerd Hoornstra
will 1 September be replaced by
Directives on titanium dioxide and asbestos and the dioxin strategy
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Enlarging the Environment, the newsletter from the European Commission on environmental approximation.
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