EU combustion plant emission law agreed

UK agrees to include pre-1987 plants under new emission controls in return for temporary opt-out

EU environment ministers today finally reached agreement on a directive to cut pollution from large combustion plants such as electricity generation stations and industrial boilers. The deal was sealed quickly after ministers agreed to include strict new emission limits on plants built before 1987 within eight years. These plants have never been subject to any EU emission limits and some delegations, chiefly the UK, had resisted their inclusion in the new directive (ENDS Daily 21 June). The impasse prevented a ministerial agreement six months ago.

Under today's agreement, combustion plants licensed after the directive enters force will have to comply with limits on emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust approximately twice as tough as current limits. Plants licensed between 1987 and that date will also have to comply with a new set of limits with a severity between the current and new limits.

However, in an accord which has made adoption of the whole directive possible, pre-1987 combustion plants will also have to comply with this second set of limits by 2008. Member states will be able to meet the limits by applying them to plants individually or as part of a "bubble," allowing dirtier plants to exceed the limits provided that emissions from other plants are well below them. The overall level of emissions from these plants should be the same whichever compliance route is chosen.

Applying the limits to plants currently free from control is bound to lead to some of them having to close down. The prospect of such a closure making much of the UK's coal industry redundant was the main reason for its reluctance to accept them.

However, the UK reversed its stance after a new clause was inserted allowing member states to temporarily exclude certain pre-1987 plants from the new emission control regime. Providing the option is taken up before 2004, they will be able to operate plants without limits up to 2008, but will have to close them once they have been in operation for 20,000 hours after this date. For a normal plant this translate into a period of three or four years.

Today's agreement marks the Council of Ministers' first reading of the LCP directive, which must now be scrutinised by the European Parliament for a second time.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111. The formal conclusions of the meeting will be published on the website on Friday.

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