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Committee concerned about new emission levels

The Economic and Social Committee of the Council of Ministers is concerned about new emission levels for the various categories of fuel, according to its Opinion on the European Commission's Proposal on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large ...

The Economic and Social Committee of the Council of Ministers is concerned about new emission levels for the various categories of fuel, according to its Opinion on the European Commission's Proposal on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants. Overall the Committee welcomes the Commission's proposal, however the Committee expresses criticism towards the new emission levels for the various categories of fuel. The Commission's Proposal is a major revision of Directive 88/609/EEC and is based on the following main considerations: - Changes is the Community energy scene, with greater use of natural gas for electricity generation and a continuous decline in Community coal production; - The adoption of other environmental protection legislation; - The accession to the Community of three new Member States and international agreements on transboundary pollution; - Technical progress which could increase the economically attractive ways of reducing sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and particulate emissions. The Proposal contains a number of amendments, the most important being: - The sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides emission limit values for new combustion plants are roughly half those applied to plants authorized since 1 July 1987; - New emission limit values are laid down for gas turbines; - The desulphurization requirements are substantially tightened up for new plants; - Measuring systems are reinforced, both for existing plants of above 300MW and new plants of above 100MW, with priority given to continuous measurement; - the exception applied under the previous version of the directive to plants of 400MW or greater, provided that their annual operation level is less than 2,200 hours, will not apply to plants authorized from 1 January 2000. The Committee welcomes the Commission's revision of the Directive on Large Combustion Plants, which the Committee called for in its Opinion on the Proposal on the sulphur content of fuel. It is also pleased that the recitals of the draft Directive make specific reference to the Directive's interaction with other Community activities. In particular, this refers to the Directives on the internal market in electricity and gas, and the strategies for waste management, especially the use of biomass and combined heat and power. However, the Committee had comments on some of the proposals put forward in the Directive. For example, the Committee is pleased that the targets set in the 1988 Directive have been retained, both for plants existing at the date in question and for those authorized or commissioned after the date in question but before the current Directive entered into force. But the Committee would also like to point out that the vast majority of plants of this kind have had to reduce their emission levels substantially during this period, as a result of the application of stricter national or local standards. Furthermore, the Committee does not approve of the new wording of Article 8. According to the Committee, this is a clear case of interference in a problem, the assessment and resolution of which is, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the exclusive preserve of the competent authorities of the Member States. The Committee's main criticism, however, relates to the new emission levels for the various categories of fuel. The Committee is aware that these levels have been strongly criticized by all the energy-producing sectors as disproportionate to the intended objectives and impossible to achieve using economically viable technologies. The Committee calls on the Commission to carry out, as a matter of urgency, a specific study into the impact of this revision on the Community's most remote regions, where geographic and atmospheric conditions make it worthwhile considering exempting them from some of the current proposals. Additionally, the Committee has serious doubts as to the practical applicability of the new proposal to the applicant countries for accession to the European Union. As the Committee has recently pointed out, a suitable transitional period is needed to enable these countries to comply fully with the Proposal.