EU: Parliament tightens proposals on LCPs and waste incineration

MEPs this week approved amendments to Commission proposals intended to reduce pollution from large combustion plants (LCPs), updating the 1988 directive, to extend the scope of the directive and tighten emission limits.

Under the Commission’s proposal, the updated directive would apply to all new LCPs. The amendments tabled by the Parliament would bring all existing LCPs within the scope of the legislation (including those licensed before 1987, which are currently excluded). They would also tighten the emission limits proposed by the Commission; extend the directive to cover offshore gas turbines; and require member states to give emission information to the public.

About 2000 LCPs (defined as those with a thermal input of 50 megawatts or more) are currently in operation in the EU. One quarter of these are used to produce electricity and the rest generate power for industry (e.g. for the production of chemicals). LCPs, which may burn solid or liquid fuel as well as gas or biomass, give rise to air pollution within and across national borders through the emission of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Reducing these emissions will help combat acidification, prevent the formation of ground-level ozone and improve public health by reducing respiratory problems.

Incineration of waste

MEPs also voted through amendments to the Commission’s proposals on the incineration of waste. The Parliament recommended the fusion of two Commission proposals dealing with the incineration of both hazardous and normal waste into a single piece of legislation. It also approved numerous technical amendments relating to limit values.

The reporter Johannes Blokland (NL, I-EN) stressed the importance of the issue because of the effects of incineration on human health and air quality throughout the EU. He recommended that the two proposals should be fused into a single piece of legislation. He tabled a series of further amendments dealing with the definition of waste and incineration plants.
Mr Blokland stressed the need to have constant emission standards and clear rules for outputs, as outputs were, he contended, more important than inputs. Mr Blokland went on to argue for the same rules to apply for all incineration plants – including incineration in cement kilns.
He called for flue gas purification in order to avoid ammonia emissions in the air. He also expressed dissatisfaction that many combustion plants were not complying with rules that came into force in 1989 because of the cost implications.
In conclusion he argued that in order to improve health and air quality there was a need for proper uniform rules.

Other committee amendments also seek to toughen some of the emission standards proposed by the Commission. According to one amendment, “the precautionary principle dictates that protection of health must be given priority over economic considerations”.
It was also felt that the proposal should contribute to the overriding goal of European waste policy, particularly as regards respect for the waste hierarchy of prevention, recycling, incineration (with energy recovery) and – least desirable of all – landfill.

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