The European Commission last week adopted new legislation on industrial emissions to strengthen the provisions already in force and reduce industrial emissions throughout the European Union. The proposal is hoped to bring health and environmental benefits and should create a more level playing field across the EU, reducing competition distortions between companies. It is intended also to simplify current legislation by merging seven directives into one, significantly cutting the administrative burden for industry and public authorities. The Commission's proposal focuses on four key problems identified during a two-year review process when data was collected through an extensive program with ten studies and continuous consultation with stakeholders. Firstly, the Commission proposes to overhaul seven existing pieces of legislation on industrial emissions, molding them into a single directive. This directive improves the clarity and coherence of the legislation and reduces the administrative burden through combined requirements on granting permits and streamlined reporting. Secondly, the new directive improves and clarifies the concept of Best Available Techniques (BATs). Decisions that set permit conditions outside BATs can only be taken in specific cases and need to be justified and documented. This will lead to a more coherent and EU-wide application of BATs. In addition, the directive tightens current minimum emission limit values for large combustion plants to ensure that emission reductions needed for achieving the objectives of the Commission's Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution are carried out. Thirdly, the proposal introduces minimum provisions on environmental inspections of installations, the review of permit granting conditions and reporting of compliance and soil protection. Incentives for the development and promotion of environmentally friendly technologies are also included. Finally, the scope of the legislation is extended to include additional activities such as combustion plants of between 20 and 50 megawatts, production of wood-based panels and preservation of wood. The Commission proposal also clarifies the scope of certain activities already covered by existing legislation, such as waste treatment and food production. Although it is not included in the legislative proposal, the Commission will continue to work on developing possible EU-wide rules on emissions trading for NOx and SO2, thus building on experience gained through the implementation of the EU's carbon trading scheme. The aim of the new directive is to tackle the shortcomings of current legislation on industrial emissions. There are seven overlapping directives covering similar activities with approximately 52,000 installations falling under the scope of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive alone. The main thrust of the directive is to increase the use of BATs, an obligation to ensure that industrial operators use the most cost-effective techniques to achieve a high level of environmental protection. Due to the weakness of existing legislation, there has not been the level of application of BATs required by the IPPC Directive across the EU. Compliance with and enforcement of current legislation in the different Member States is also inconsistent and the complex legal framework carries unnecessary costs for industry. These issues need to be addressed in order to maintain a level playing field for industry while offering higher levels of protection for the environment and human health. The aim of the IPPC Directive is to prevent and control emissions to air, water and soil from industrial installations across the European Union. The most recent figures on the issuing of permits under the directive suggest that by mid-2006 only about 50% of the 52,000 installations concerned had received a permit. This regrettable situation shows Member States have not made sufficient efforts to comply with the directive's Oct. 30, 2007 deadline. The directive tightens minimum emission limits in certain industrial sectors across the EU - particularly for large combustion plants where progress to reduce pollution is insufficient. It introduces minimum standards for environmental inspections of industrial installations and allows for more effective permit reviews. The proposal also extends the scope of legislation to cover other polluting activities, such as medium sized combustion plants, thus ensuring that all European Union Member States receive the same high level of environmental protection. The directive is expected to provide significant benefits for the environment and human health. The emission reductions achieved at large combustion plants alone are said to offer net benefits ranging between â‚¬7 to â‚¬28 billion per year and should reduce premature deaths and years of life lost by 13,000 and 125,000, respectively. Significant health and environmental benefits are also expected in other sectors. The proposed directive is hoped to reduce administrative costs for authorities and operators by between â‚¬105 and â‚¬255 million per year, thus contributing to the future sustainability of EU industry. As the proposal is not due to come into effect for several years, the Commission will also put forward recommendations and work with Member States to improve the implementation of existing legislation. [email protected] The author is head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov law firm.