Pollution control given a new order

9th March 2011


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  • EU



the environmentalist assesses the impact of the industrial emissions Directive on the UK.

In July 2010, the European Commission agreed the final text of the long-awaited industrial emissions Directive (2010/75/EU)(IED).

It supersedes the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive and entered into force on 6 January 2011. Member states have two years to apply the IED in their national legislation.

As well as revising IPPC, the IED consolidates six other Directives into one new, streamlined and strengthened new law.

The six related Directives apply to large combustion plants (LCP), solvent emissions, waste incineration, and the production of titanium dioxide (see below).

>>The six Directives included in the IED

  • 1999/13/EC on solvent emissions
  • 2000/76/EC on waste incineration
  • 2001/80/EC on large combustion plants
  • 78/176/EEC on the titanium dioxide industry
  • 82/883/EEC on the titanium dioxide industry
  • 92/112/EEC on the titanium dioxide industry

An evolutionary process

The commission published the first IPPC Directive in 1996 (96/61/EC).

The Directive, which applied to more than 40,000 industrial installations in the EU, including about 4,000 in the UK, was subsequently amended four times.

The most recent version was published in 2008 (2008/1/EC).

It did not change significantly from the original regarding its scope and approach, but consolidated the Directive and its amendments in a process known as codifying.

Between 2005 and 2007, the commission reviewed the application of the IPPC Directive to examine the first decade of its implementation throughout the EU.

It found widely differing interpretations of IPPC and an inconsistent application, especially regarding the use of best available techniques (BATs) – state-of-the-art techniques that achieve a high level of protection for the environment as a whole that are also economically and technically viable.

There was also evidence of incomplete permitting and wide variations in both regulation and inspection.

Annex I of the IPPC Directive defines the industrial sectors and activities it covers.

However, the commission found that the environment would benefit from both widening and clarifying the scope.

Following amendments and connections to related legislation, the review showed that there were also unnecessary administrative and financial burdens due to the growing complexity of several pieces of linked legislation.

Part of the complexity, for example, was due to the development of the legislation for specific sectors that work alongside IPPC.

The review triggered a major revision of IPPC, in a process known as recasting.

In one sense, the IPPC Directive and the six related Directives have been melted down and reformed to create a new, lighter and stronger legislative alloy.

A stronger BAT

In terms of structure, the main core of the IED mirrors the IPPC Directive, although the text is clearer and more prescriptive to avoid ambiguity, and significantly strengthens the application of BATs.

The text contains the common elements that will apply to all types of installation, followed by more detailed provisions in both the text and specific annexes for the activities that are currently regulated under the six separate Directives.

The IED also dovetails with the Waste Framework Directive (WFD)(2008/98/EC), so that the mandatory application of the waste hierarchy prescribed in the WFD, for example, is now firmly embodied and echoed within the IED, making it clear that affected installations will have to apply the hierarchy.

Many of the changes strengthen the provisions within the IPPC Directive, and in a good deal of cases the revisions are already reflected by UK practice, including permitting and permit reviews, site remediation, transparency, monitoring of emissions and releases, inspections, and provisions for BATs.

The original IPPC Directive was underpinned by the application of BATs and also included provisions for an exchange of information between EU member states on best available techniques. These guidance documents are known as BAT reference documents, or BREF notes.

However, because BATs are not always applied consistently – some EU member states used the BREF notes as informative guidance rather than compulsory directions – the levels of controls described in the BREF notes will be mandatory, unless a national regulator can justify not applying a BAT.

In the UK, regulators have already applied BATs in the way that the commission intends, so the strengthened provisions in the IED will mean little or no change.

The IED now specifies minimum frequencies for inspections. Higher-risk sites will have to be inspected at least annually; the frequency for low-risk sites can be reduced to three years. If incidents and breaches occur, inspection frequencies will increase.

The IED also describes the means by which regulators can assess environmental risk, such as the application of EMAS – eco-management and audit scheme – and compliance records.

The UK already applies a risk-based approach to inspections, with the higher-risk sites getting more time and attention.

So as with BATs, the reality is that the IED will mean little or no change in the UK, at least for Part A installations.

Scoping out

Although the IED approach to regulation of installations will not mean major changes for UK regulators, there will be significant changes for some industrial sectors due to the expanded scope in Annex I of the Directive.

The scope itself is far more detailed and prescriptive, but in many cases – such as in the minerals sectors – these changes are clarifications to ensure a clear and consistent application across the EU.

In any case, the UK already applies many parts of the revised scope through the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000 (PPC) (as amended), and the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (EPR).

The panel below shows the main changes to the scope, and how the IED has revised IPPC.

>> Main changes and impact on UK

Sector/activity Amendment Impact on UK
Combustion Greater clarity on the application of the IED to gasification and liquefaction of coal and other fuels. No substantive change likely. Already regulated under PPC and EPR.
Non-ferrous materials Greater clarity on the scope. No substantive change likely. Already regulated under PPC and EPR.
Minerals Greater clarity on lime and magnesium-based minerals. No substantive change likely. Already regulated under PPC and EPR.
Disposal or recovery of hazardous waste Clarification of the activities used in disposal and recovery. There is more detail, but the threshold of 10 tonnes per day has not changed, so there are already provisions under PPC and EPR.
Waste incineration The scope is not altered but the main text includes gasification and pyrolysis plants. The UK already has provisions to regulate these newly specified
types of plants.
Disposal or recovery of non-hazardous waste Greater clarity on the activities for waste disposal, where installations have a capacity above 50m3 per day. Extending the scope to specified activities recovering non-hazardous waste with a capacity exceeding 75 tonnes per day, and 100 tonnes per day for anaerobic digestion. Activities in this sector are currently regulated under several regimes. The extension of the scope to include recovery operations
will affect many installations that currently have either EPR-waste permits, waste-management licences, or exemptions. It is likely that these will need new permits.
Storage of hazardous waste Temporary storage of hazardous waste
above 50 tonnes.
No substantive change likely. Already regulated under existing waste-management Regulations, such as PPC and the EPR.
Storage of hazardous waste Temporary storage underground, of
hazardous waste, above 50 tonnes.
No substantive change likely. Already regulated under existing waste-management Regulations, such as PPC and the EPR.
Wood-based products Inclusion of wood-based panels above
production threshold of 600m3/day
No substantive change likely. Already regulated under PPC and EPR.
Food products Clarification of coverage of food production activities, notably in respect of seasonal vegetables and mixed animal and vegetable products. No substantive change likely. Already regulated under PPC and EPR. There could be a few new sites regulated under the IED,
which are not already under IPPC.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) New activity. The main text of the IED also specifies that power stations rated 300MW or more must be assessed for readiness for CCS. The UK has already included provisions for CCS in both its policies
and amendments to existing legislation, so this is work already in progress.
Preservation of wood products Preservation of wood-based panels above a production threshold of 75m3 per day This addition would have a large impact on the UK. Existing Part B sites would become Part A installations, and many without PPC licences or environmental permits would require them.
Wastewater-treatment plants Provisions for independent wastewater treatment plants not already covered by other legislation. Few sites would be affected, and already covered by other existing legislation. There could be a few new sites regulated under the IED, which are not already under IPPC.

In many cases, permits and licences under the PPC and the EPR will need some amending, although these changes are likely to be minor.

There are also new activities under the IED, such as provisions for carbon capture and storage (CCS) from power stations.

But again, the UK has already drafted legislation to provide for aspects of CCS.

Changes to the scope for waste-management activities mean that the recovery of non-hazardous waste is now included, and this will affect many installations; those with a capacity to process 75 tonnes or more of waste per day will be regulated under the IED.

Currently, there are many plants that are regulated under waste-management licensing or the EPR, and such installations will need permitting under the IED.

Sites that preserve wood products will also be significantly affected, as this is a new prescribed activity under the IED for the sites that have a production capacity of at least 75m3 per day.

The IED will also introduce significant changes for operators of large combustion plants. In simple terms,the IED continues from where the existing Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) leaves off in 2016.

The emission limit values (ELVs) for nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide will be stricter from 2016. ELVs for carbon monoxide will also be introduced.

At the same time, the IED does include alternatives to ELVs.

First, the IED has the same type of opt-out provisions found in the LCPD. Under the LCPD, operators can be exempted from ELVs in return for a limited, lifetime derogation.

This sets a limit on the operating hours of the installation (up to 20,000 hours) to 2016.

The IED also includes a limited, lifetime derogation. It exempts operators of LCPs from new ELVs in return for not operating for more than 17,500 hours between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2023.

It does not apply to LCPs that already have a limited lifetime derogation under the current LCPD.

Second, operators can opt to become part of a national plan to reduce emissions through a cap-andtrade emissions trading scheme.

The LCPD includes this provision, but under the IED this option is extended to installations that comply with the ELVs in the IED by 1 July 2020.

The UK roll-out

The IED will be transposed into UK law through amendments to existing legislation, such as the EPR for England and Wales, and the PPC Regulations in Scotland.

Defra expects to issue a formal consultation on the draft transposing Regulations in early 2012.

Before that time, the environment department plans to engage interested parties in a variety of ways to help draft the Regulations.

Scotland will run a separate consultation, and this is also expected in early 2012.

Northern Ireland proposes to follow the same timetable as England and Wales.


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