EU industry gets IPPC wake-up call

Companies should prepare now for major new pollution control law, says EU official

A senior European Commission official today warned EU industry to start preparing for the introduction of a major new pollution control regime. The 1996 integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) directive enters into force in November and will affect a wide range of Europe's most environmentally significant industry sectors.

Speaking to representatives of the European paper industry at a conference in Brussels, Jean-François Verstrynge - deputy director in the Commission's environment directorate - called for much more thinking on the implications of IPPC. "It is time to start explaining to all the players how it works. The paper industry is the first one that is going through this motion."

The Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi) held the conference to clarify to its members and to regulators from around the EU the new procedures that will govern the licensing of pulp and paper installations under IPPC. The 1996 directive requires environmentally significant industries to apply "Best Available Techniques" (BATS) to reduce their impact on the environment and introduces a "multi-media" approach to pollution control, so that water, air and soil pollution are considered as part of the same package.

In contrast with some earlier industry sector-specific EU laws, the directive does not directly set emission limit values. Instead, it gives a great deal of discretion to regulatory authorities to decide the exact environmental requirements at any particular site, based on a general set of rules that will nevertheless lead to high standards being imposed.

From the start of November, permits to build new installations in the paper, chemicals, waste management, energy, metals, textiles, food, intensive livestock and other sectors will have to be granted under IPPC rules. A Cepi official said that although existing installations would not be covered by the directive until 2007, industry needed to gear up for the changes in order to make the right investment choices now.

The paper industry sees itself as a pioneer in IPPC implementation. Along with steel and the cement and lime industries, it is one of three sectors that are at the most advanced stages in talks with the Commission's Seville-based IPPC Bureau on creating guidelines to help national regulators understand the technical details of BATs.

The BAT reference document (or BREF) for the paper industry will be completed in the next two months, and Cepi is keen to ensure that regulators do not see its list of BATs as targets that must be applied in all circumstances. Cepi's Manuel Gil Mata said that the BREF would be a "shopping list " of BATs from which the regulators should, in discussion with industry, select the most appropriate ones to apply to each individual site.

Follow Up:
Cepi, tel: +32 2 627 4911.

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