Danish industrial pollution law to be revised

Package of amendments will implement IPPC directive, Århus convention, Seveso II law

Environmental permitting procedures for Danish industry are to be updated under a government proposal put out to public consultation last week. The amendment to Denmark's environmental protection law includes a plan that has been criticised by industry to require industrial firms to consult with employees before making significant environmental decisions.

The government's proposal comprises a series of individually minor changes to current controls, according to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its main role is to enable adoption of several relevant EU and international agreements.

In particular, the amendment will transpose into national law the EU's 1996 directive on integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC), making Denmark one of the first EU countries to do this. It will also transpose the EU's so-called "Seveso II" directive on major accident hazards, which was passed in 1996; and it will implement the UN/ECE's Århus convention on public participation in environmental decision making, which was adopted by pan-European environment ministers only this summer (ENDS Daily 25 June).

Implementing the IPPC directive's central requirement that companies' impacts on air, water and land should be regulated in an integrated way raises few if any challenges, according to the EPA, because Denmark already has a national system of integrated pollution control.

One change that will be required under the full IPPC system concerns public information about proposed permits. Information about permit applications will be made public at the point when permits are applied for rather than, as at present, when a permit decision is made.

Another strengthening of Danish law required under IPPC will be a requirement that pollution permits are formally reviewed every eight years. Under current Danish rules there is already an eight-year review clause, but this gives the regulatory authorities an opportunity rather than an obligation to review.

The proposals are exciting little interest among Danish industries and environmental groups, with the exception of a plan to require firms to consult their workforces before taking significant environmental decisions. This was included at the personal request of Danish environment minister Svend Auken, ENDS Daily understands.

The proposal is currently vague, the EPA admits, and will be supplemented with specific guidance later. Industry groups are not happy with the idea. Similar Danish rules are already in force requiring firms to consult their workforces on health and safety matters, according to one association. But "we have yet to see what contribution employees can make on environmental questions".

Follow Up:
Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00.

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