Four more BAT reference documents finalised

"Brefs" expected to have profound impact as 1996 EU industrial pollution control directive kicks in

The EU has finalised four more of the key reference documents which are expected to have a profound impact on industrial pollution control over the coming years. Known as "brefs," these describe the "best available techniques" - or BAT - that firms will be expected to adopt in production processes as the 1996 integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) directive starts to bite.

The four new brefs cover the cooling systems, ferrous metals processing, chlor-alkali and glassmaking industries. They were completed at a meeting of stakeholders in Brussels last week and join four brefs already completed for the cement and lime, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals and pulp and paper sectors. ENDS Daily has reported on the first two of these (ENDS Daily 15 May) and will review the other six soon.

Brefs are non-binding guidance documents that will serve as benchmarks for national pollution control authorities when they set permit conditions for industrial installations under IPPC. The directive already applies to permits for plants built since October 1999 and will apply to all other installations from 2007.

The eventual significance of brefs will depend on how national authorities interpret the margin of discretion granted them by the directive. The documents do not set out emission limit values, for instance, and in theory do not prescribe particular processes. However, at least one bref already finalised, that for the chlorine industry, suggests that BAT is achievable with only one particular technique.

Under the directive, BAT is defined as the most effective and advanced technologies and practices to prevent or, where this is not possible, to reduce emissions. The word "available" in BAT is further defined as techniques that are "economically and technically viable".

The brefs, which take two to three years to complete, have been drafted by the European Union's IPPC bureau in Seville with the involvement of industry and environmental interest groups. The first eight will enter force once formally adopted by the European Commission, a step expected within two or three months.

The next meeting of the IPPC "information exchange forum" that approves final versions of brefs is scheduled for May, when one further document is expected to be completed.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; see also the IPPC bureau, tel +34 95 4488 284. The bureau's website contains full texts of all brefs finalised so far plus much supplementary information.

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