MEPs debate power stations, EMAS, lorries

Round-up of latest European Parliament environment, transport, committee sessions

The European Parliament's environment committee has demanded a strengthening of a proposed directive aimed at reducing pollution from large combustion plants. During last week's session, the committee voted to extend the draft law's scope to include existing plants as well as ones built after 2000, and to set stricter emissions limit values for emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) (ENDS Daily 3 February). MEPs also voted to delete a derogation which would allow Spain to have higher emissions limits for plants burning solid fuels built until 2005.

Many of the amendments succeeded with only a slim majority, with many members of the dominant Socialist group voting against. This suggests that voting will be tight when the report goes to the full parliament, probably in April.

The committee also adopted a report on the proposed revision of the EU eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS). The amendments, which will now go to the full parliament, seek to insert more specific requirements for companies wishing to register under EMAS.

These include a far more detailed description of what should be included in an EMAS-registered firm's environmental management plan. Among other things, this would have to include applying best available technologies to reduce pollution where possible. Non-industrial companies, such as banks, would have to perform environmental impact assessments on the services they provide. The committee also attempts to firm up the Commission's reference to compliance with environment legislation, stating clearly that this must be a pre-requisite of EMAS accreditation.

For administrative reasons, the committee delayed a vote on two proposals on waste incineration, but MEPs still hope to get their amendments to the full parliament in April (ENDS Daily 3 February). This would give enough time for EU environment ministers time to reach agreement on the issue at their next formal meeting in June.

Meanwhile, the parliament's transport committee voted to reject a proposal from the European Commission to increase the maximum allowable weight for lorries involved in "combined" transport. The Commission wants to raise the 40-tonne limit to 44 tonnes for vehicles involved in road/rail operations as a way of stimulating intermodal transport. The committee said 44-tonne trucks would damage the road infrastructure in some member states. The full parliament will vote on the issue in April.

The transport committee also passed a resolution endorsing the Commission's proposals for an EU-wide framework for charging for transport infrastructure use, which would allow prices to take environmental costs into consideration (ENDS Daily 22 July 1998). The rapporteur, German Socialist Barbara Schmidbauer, said that the changes should aim not to increase transport costs, but to promote more efficient and environmentally friendly use of the existing infrastructure.

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