Energy, emissions without strings –

EU countries will be able to break out of restrictions on pollutant emissions into the industrial atmosphere to reduce energy dependence in Russia and abroad. Brussels will allow it to overcome the limits set by European laws on sulfur dioxide, dust and nitrogen oxides to make up for the shortage of gas, in order to facilitate the use of other fuels, both in energy production and in industrial processing operations. . According to the European Commission, this exception, which is now possible at the regulatory level for only 10 days, will be possible as long as the need for member states to use fuels other than gas continues.

This is just one of the contents of the summary responses contained in a letter signed by the Director-General of the Director-General for the Environment of the European Commission, Florica Fink Heuer, and sent to the Permanent Representatives of the 27 member states of the Union last April 13; An error whose consequences affect the application of guidance on industrial emissions, environmental impact, habitat and water. The Commission remembers the RePower EU agreement, which aims to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, but also to protect against price hikes.

The initiative stems from the need to summarize a series of clarifications that have already been sent to Member States regarding the existing flexibility in the environmental legislation of the community due to the need to reduce energy dependence on imported fossil fuels. In this regard, the European Commission refers to the RePower EU connection which, in addition to its goal of reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels, also aims to protect against price increases.

The document relates to four legislative axes. Let’s go in order.

Industrial emissions from combustion plants (Directives 2010/75 and 2015/83). Agree to exceptions for sulfur dioxide, dust and nitrogen oxides; However, these must be accompanied by constant monitoring. Moreover, the commission must be informed immediately. In the case of industrial facilities, the exemption status may last up to six months for fuels with a low sulfur content. Regarding combustion plants, Brussels states that several emissions limits will come into effect from 2025 or 2030.

Environmental Impact (Directive 2011/92). Here the European CEO recalls the teaching at the European Court of Justice: In the case of a fuel change that does not require physical work, such a change should not be classified as a project. Therefore, it should not be subject to an EIA. The situation is different, according to Brussels, as there are physical works to be done.

In any case, the Committee states that, in exceptional cases, the use of an alternative form of impact assessment is permitted. What are these cases? For example, urgently securing a gas supply or a renewable power plant, a failure to move forward – yes – is against the public interest and would be a threat to stability and security. The EU executive also states that at this point there is a technical document outlining the exceptions.

Habitat (Directive 94/43). Again, the public interest may prevail, if there are no alternatives and with necessary compensatory measures. It is a question primarily related to the planning, construction and operation of power plants from renewable sources. Contact RePowerUE considers such combinations a dominant public interest and public safety. On the other hand, the Habitat Directive itself provides for a justified exception to the more restrictive rules of protection, specifically for reasons of safety and the prevailing public interest. Also in this case, the committee notes that there is a technical document on this point that clarifies the exceptions.

Water (Directives 2000/60 and 2006/56). Under current legislation, all member states must ensure that the water bodies are not degraded and are in “good” condition by 2027 at the latest. This is the big picture. The document from Brussels also states that all new projects and modification of existing projects are subject to prior authorization. Therefore, there are no exceptional cases or specific procedures. It follows that exceptions in the matter of water legislation can only be exercised for a temporary deterioration, which may affect the state of water quality. Also in this case, the EU executive defers the study of national governments to specific evidence on the issue.

In conclusion, the Commission, after calling all the exceptions and the most flexible application, confirmed that it had adopted on the 5th of April a new guidance proposal on industrial emissions. There is a clause, referring to the EU executive in his letter, which is prepared in accordance with the “Green Deal” and the European ambitions envisaged by the “zero pollution” (“zero pollution”) goal.

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