MEPs push to tighten sulphur in fuels law

Ministers have weakened anti-acidification too much, says EU parliament committee

The European Parliament's environment committee has attempted to strengthen a proposed directive limiting the sulphur content of oils burned as fuel in heating, by industrial installations and some ships. In Brussels this morning, the committee passed three amendments to the text agreed by EU environment ministers last June (ENDS Daily 18 June 1998). Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala, the parliament's rapporteur on the dossier, described the text as largely acceptable but said that some timescales for implementation should be reduced. Ms Hautala said the ministers' deadline for countries to limit the sulphur content of heavy fuel oil - used in industry - to 1% was "far too late," and proposed bringing it back to 2001, one year later than the deadline first suggested by the European Commission. Another amendment attempts to reduce the derogationto this rule for member states which do not contribute to acidification. The amendment would allow these countries - likely to be Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy - to use heavy fuel oil with a sulphur content of up to 2.5%. This is the limit originally proposed by the Commission, which ministers increased to 3%. A third amendment would bring forward the deadline for limiting to 0.1% the sulphur content of gas oil - used in smaller industry and domestic heating - from 2008 to 2004. This would be a second-phase reduction, following the limit of 0.2% by 2000 agreed by ministers. The full parliament will vote on the dossier in February.

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