A few months ago, the Italian Minister of the Environment (“MATTM”) issued an interpretative directive on the “proceedings for the issuance, re-examination and updating of the IPPC permits which fall under the competence of the Ministry of the Environment” (Ministerial Decree 274/2015 – “Decree”).

The Decree aims at consolidating the practice of the administrative authorities in implementing the current IPPC regulation and at overcoming certain interpretative problems that have arisen, in particular, as to the assessment of the substantiality or non-substantiality of the changes to the permit.

The regulation is not directly addressed to operators and it is not immediately prescriptive, but it clarifies some of the most relevant issues regarding IPPC permits.

What is an IPPC permit?

The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control permit (“IPPC permit”) is provided under European and national law1 for carrying out certain types of industrial activities potentially having a significant impact on the environment and it is aimed at preventing and reducing the pollution stemming from such activities.

Scope and objectives of the Decree (Section 1)

The Decree is directed to the competent departments of MATTM. Its purpose is that of “codifying some good operational practices”. It is not addressed to Regions and Provinces, yet they are likely to look at the Decree for local IPPC permits.

Final Summary Opinions (PICs) and Monitoring and Control Plans (PMCs) (Section 2 and 3)

MATTM requires the IPPC Investigating Commission (Commissione Istruttoria AIA/IPCC - “Commission”) to use special forms (Annex 1 and Annex 2) in drafting Final Summary Opinions (Pareri Istruttori Conclusivi - “PICs”) relating to a non-substantial change or in the event that the IPPC permit is issued for the first time, reconsidered, or substantially changed
MATTM can require the operator to carry out monitoring campaigns, in-depth investigations or feasibility studies even once the IPPC permit is issued. Requests for in-depth investigations entailing the submittal of environmental data are not legitimate, where such data pertain to off-site environmental conditions.
Some guidelines are provided also with regard to emissions limits.
MATTM also recommends that ISPRA’s proposal of Monitoring and Control Plan (Piano di Monitoraggio e Controllo – “PMC”) features only the prescriptions that are functional to those already included in the PIC.

Preliminary assessment of non-substantial change (Section 4)

Upon receipt of a communication of non-substantial change pursuant to paragraph 1 of Section 29-nonies of Legislative Decree 152/2006, the competent Authorities need to proceed as follows:

  • preliminary admissibility assessment (paragraph 1), carried out by MATTM’s General Department for Environmental Assessments (“General Department”). Some cases of “inadmissibility” of the communication are identified by way of example:
    • Implementation of a new plant/unit not mentioned/authorized by the IPPC permit in force, including the complete replacement of existing plants/units.;
    • Request for revising (revisione) the IPPC permit’s prescriptions, including the request for exemptions;
    • Request for revising the PMC in the absence of changes to the plant manufacturing process;
    • Actions not impacting on the environment.

In the event that, following the preliminary screening, the General Department considers the application admissible, the proceedings can move forward in three ways:

  • acknowledgment of a change to waste management (temporary waste storage): the General Department acknowledges the communication and requires the operator to transmit the relevant implementation schedule;
  • acknowledgment of measures to be taken pursuant to the IPPC permit or measures not entailing environmental impacts other than those already authorized: the operator is required to transmit the relevant implementation plan;
  • commencement of the proceedings for updating the IPPC permit: if the communication is accepted but is other than the two preceding cases, the Commission shall carry out a preliminary investigation for updating the permit and informing the operator within 60 days from the submittal of the communication.2 The Commission may:
    • qualify the change as substantial, in which case the proceedings for the issuance of a new IPPC permit need to be initiated; or
    • qualify the change as non-substantial, in which case the proceedings terminate with the transmission of the PIC to the operator, who is thus entitled to implement the change (on this point see, however, footnote 2).

Substantial changes are those which: (i) cause an increase of one of the threshold magnitudes, being such increase equal to or higher than the magnitude itself; (ii) are subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment; (iii) involve the emission of new significant substances.

Non-substantial changes are typically those which anyhow allow the operator to comply with the IPPC permit prescriptions and the authorized thresholds, without involvingnew plants/units or the complete replacement of existing ones (which, on the contrary, would require the submission of an instance for reconsideration pursuant to Section 4, paragraph 3).