Compliance up in the air?
Paul Sheridan and Verity Kidd of Cameron McKenna offer an initial aid to navigating the legislative landscape of air pollution.
Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air quality assessment and management came into force on 21 November 1996 as a Framework Directive, the objectives of which are addressed through a series of daughter directives which set specific limit values for various pollutants. These have replaced previously existing air pollution directives covering particulates, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone, as well as addressing a number of pollutants for the first time.
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) and the Kyoto Protocol to the Convention (1997), the European Union is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 8% from 1990 levels by the period 2008 to 2012. The fifth Conference of the Parties (CoP-5) was held in Bonn between 25 October and 5 November 1999 where it was hoped to reach further agreement on rules, guidelines and mechanisms for the operation of the Kyoto commitments, including flexible mechanisms such as emissions trading. A timetable was agreed upon for completing the outstanding details of the Protocol by the next Conference (CoP-6) set for November 2000.
The Montreal Protocol (1987) on substances that deplete the ozone layer led to commitments by the European Union to reduce, phase-out and ban the use of CFCs, HCFCs and methylbromide, subject to certain use exemptions. The most important piece of EU legislation currently in place in this regard is Council Regulation 3093/94 on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Proposals to replace Regulation 3093/94 reached a Common Position in February 1999 and are currently being reviewed in Parliament.
A directive on national emission limits for certain atmospheric pollutants has been proposed as a follow-up to the Acidification Strategy. Acidification, tropospheric ozone and soil eutrophication are inter-related problems caused by emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds and ammonia, and the proposed directive sets national ceilings for each Member State to be achieved by 2010, using 1990 levels as a baseline. A new Protocol to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (1979), agreed upon in September 1999, lays down emission ceilings for the same substances. Although the proposed directive would not need to be identical to the Protocol, it would need to be compatible.
The European Union Directive 96/61/EC on integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) was required to be implemented into national legislation by 31 October 1999. New installations, i.e. those covered by the new regime coming into operation after 31 October 1999, require a permit to operate, with existing installations already in operation to be phased in over a seven year period. The permit will place limits on emissions to air and other environmental media and will stipulate that all appropriate preventative measures be taken regarding pollution through the use of “Best Available Techniques”.
IPPC will be implemented in the UK via the new Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999, a Framework Act requiring implementing regulations which are still under consultation. The new integrated pollution prevention and control regime will, to a certain extent, replace the existing IPC and LAAPC regime. The Act also requires the Secretary of State to issue statutory guidance on the new regime for all industry sectors, to include details of air pollution prevention measures. This guidance is still being prepared by the Environment Agency.
Directive 99/13/EC on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain activities and installations was adopted on 11 March 1999. The legislation aims to reduce emissions of organic solvents by 50% by 2010 and Member States have two years to transpose the legislation into national legal systems.
A directive aimed at reducing VOC emissions from paint is currently being proposed with national emissions ceilings under discussion.
Air Quality Strategy
Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air quality assessment and management, together with its daughter directives, will be implemented in the UK through the National Air Quality Strategy. The first National Air Quality Strategy was introduced in the UK in March 1997. In January 1999, the DETR consulted on proposals to amend the Strategy and a revised version was published for further review in August 1999. The Strategy sets objectives for eight main air pollutants to protect health: benzene, 1,3-butadiene, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulates and sulphur dioxide. The draft Strategy has more stringent limits for all pollutants than the European directives, although the limits proposed for particulates have been relaxed and are now the same as the air quality daughter directive 99/30/EC.
Under Local Air Quality Management, local authorities will work towards achieving the objectives prescribed by regulation for seven of the pollutants, excluding ozone which is affected by transboundary pollutants. The objectives of the Air Quality Strategy will also be reflected in permit conditions under the new integrated pollution prevention and control regime.
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