Already agreed in principle by EU environment ministers (ENDS Daily 20 June), the Commission's proposal seeks to halve emissions of VOCs from industrial uses of organic solvents from 1990 to 2010. VOCs are important contributors to photochemical smog pollution.
European parliamentary committees usually follow a rapporteur's advice when formulating amendments to draft EU laws. But environment committee members from across the political spectrum yesterday suggested that French MEP Christian Cabrol, a member of the Union for Europe political grouping, was trying to weaken the European Commission's proposal and rejected his suggested changes. "He was trying to chop it up into bits", Socialist spokesman on the proposal, David Bowe, told ENDS Daily.
Mr Cabrol had suggested that the Commission's proposal would hurt industry, and especially small and medium-sized companies. "The repercussions of this [proposal] on employment and the economy will be very substantial - especially since no cost/benefit analysis has been carried out," Mr Cabrol told MEPs before a series of votes yesterday.
The Commission has estimated the cost to European companies of cutting VOC emissions by 70% at Ecu3-4bn per year. Yesterday, Mr Cabrol called for "flexibility for companies to allow them to meet the directive's values more smoothly".
MEPs from the committee's dominant Socialist and Green group factions disagreed. Rejecting Mr Cabrol's suggested amendment, the committee called instead for SMEs to be given no special exemptions to the directive's limit values and for the Commission to propose new legislation to encourage small firms' use of alternatives to organic solvents. The committee also voted for tighter limit values on emissions of chlorinated solvents than those proposed by the Commission.
In a third area, the committee balked at the Commission's proposal that a system of national plans should be put in place to meet solvent emissions reduction targets. EU environment ministers supported the idea in June, but the environment committee called for EU-wide targets backed up by uniform limit values for individual solvents. "The whole idea of national plans works against the idea of the single market with its universal levels of protection," Mr Bowe told ENDS Daily. "It would put craters in the level playing field."
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