The European Commission (the Commission) has published a legislative proposal amending the 1996 Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (IPPC) following the conclusion of its two year review of the directive’s implementation by member states. The Commission proposal aims to address the weaknesses highlighted in the review, as well as bringing other directives dealing with industrial emissions within the scope of IPPC.

The main thrust of the proposal is to more fully harmonise the use of ‘best available techniques’ (BATs), the obligation on operators to use the most cost-effective techniques to achieve a high level of environmental protection, by restricting member state divergence from BATs to specific cases and placing greater emphasis on justifying the conditions laid down in the permits. It also tightens minimum emission limits in certain industrial sectors across the EU, particularly for large combustion plant, and introduces minimum standards for environmental inspections of industrial installations and allows for more effective permit reviews.

Under the proposal, member states would have 18 months to implement the changes from the date the directive comes into force, although some of the provisions are subject to transitional arrangements – the earliest the provisions of the directive are likely to apply is July 2012.

Meanwhile, the BAT reference document (BREF) on energy efficiency has recently been approved by the European IPPC Bureau. The BREF note contains BAT recommendations for heat recovery, ventilation and air conditioning, lighting and cogeneration, among other areas. It also recommends a number of management techniques including carrying out energy audits and monitoring systems. No energy efficiency levels are set in it, a matter which had caused concern on the basis that these could be used by regulators to set binding standards in IPPC permits.