MEPs push for stronger EU acidification laws

Parliamentary committee votes for strict heating oil sulphur limit, end to coal subsidies

European parliamentarians have called on the EU to make greater efforts to tackle acidification in a series of votes by the Parliament's environment committee. The full Parliament will now consider demands for stricter sulphur limits in heating oils and an end to state subsidies for coal. On a separate dossier, the committee also voted for new public alert requirements at times of high air pollution.

After debating the European Commission's proposed "sulphur in liquid fuels" directive, the committee called for sulphur levels in gas oils (domestic heating oils) to be limited to 0.1% rather than the 0.2% put forward by the Commission. This would bring EU law into line with national provisions in Austria, Finland and Sweden, which are strongly opposed to the prospect of having to reduce their standards to bring them into line with those of EU partners.

In voting for the stricter sulphur limit in domestic heating oils, the committee backed the Parliament's rapporteur on the draft directive, Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala. MEPs also called for the directive's scope to be broadened to cover shipping fuels. However, Ms Hautala's proposal for aviation kerosene to be included as well was defeated, with other committee members arguing that sulphur limits in aviation fuel should be set globally rather than at European level.

The sulphur in liquid fuels directive is part of the EU's wider strategy to combat acidification. The Commission proposal for an overall acidification strategy, which aims to halve the area of the EU affected by acidification by 2010 (ENDS Daily 13 March 1997), was also discussed by the committee today.

In its voting session, the committee called for the strategy to be strengthened in a number of areas. Notably, it demanded an end to all subsidies for coal production and for a link to be made between Common Agriculture Policy subsidies and "stringent requirements" for reducing ammonia emissions from farming.

The committee also completed its scrutiny of the Commission's proposed "daughter directive" to set new ambient air quality limits on four key air pollutants: sulphur dioxide, NOx (nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide), small particulates (PM10) and lead.

In its proposal, the Commission suggested a new EU-wide public alert threshold for sulphur dioxide concentrations but excluded the other pollutants to be covered by the directive. MEPs today called for the approach to be extended, and proposed threshold concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and PM10 above which public alerts would be required.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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