More EU industrial pollution guides agreed

A forum chaired by the European Commission under the EU's IPPC industrial pollution directive has agreed three new guidelines, known as "brefs", on how to apply best available techniques (BAT) in specific fields. Under the directive thousands of industrial installations must apply BAT for environmental protection by October 2007. Any new plants built now must already do so.

The IPPC information exchange forum meets every six months to debate and approve brefs developed by working groups managed by the Commission’s IPPC bureau. The forum held its latest session in late December.

The three brefs agreed at the meeting cover storage of bulk or dangerous materials, operation of large combustion plants, and economics and cross-media effects – dealing essentially with how to balance different environmental impacts and how to balance all environmental impacts with economic issues. Each requires political endorsement by the European Commission but is now substantially complete.

The meeting featured significant rows over reasonably achievable combustion plant emissions and over external costs of air pollution measured in terms of health impacts. Environment Daily will report in more depth on these and other issues raised in all three brefs in coming editions.

IPPC bureau chief Don Litten was upbeat about the meeting and the state of progress on brefs development more generally. The three new brefs takes to 21 the number endorsed by the forum, he told Environment Daily, fulfilling “a substantial part” of the bureau’s commitment to finalise around 30 brefs by the end of 2005.

In addition, work is now fully underway on preparation of all outstanding “first wave” brefs, Mr Litten said. First drafts out for solid large volume inorganic chemicals, polymers and speciality inorganic chemicals appeared between August and October last year. A bref for organic fine chemicals moved to second draft stage in December.

At the same time, preparations are gathering pace for work to begin reviewing brefs completed earlier in the process. At December’s forum meeting it was agreed that reviews should focus on new information or problems that have arisen so as to keep down the time needed for completion.

This is not universally liked, however. Several stakeholders told Environment Daily that some countries had pushed for the reviews to go into greater depth. Germany in particular, sources agreed, believes that many early brefs were too heavily influenced by industry and need to be substantially strengthened.

Against this the long time being taken to prepare brefs (or in future reviews) is a widespread concern. It has taken up to five years to complete the three agreed in December, for example. At the meeting government representatives reiterated the need for outstanding brefs to be completed as quickly as possible.

The remaining gaps are significant hampering efforts to phase in IPPC permits for industrial installations in several countries, one national official told Environment Daily. A senior industry representative echoed the sentiment: “We’re late”, said Michel Bruder, representing EU industry association Unice.

Mr Litten said he expected the next information exchange forum meeting, due in June, to endorse three more brefs. Reviews of existing brefs should also start in earnest this year, he said, with guidelines on BAT for the cement and lime industry in the vanguard.

Published with permission of Environment Daily

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