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Lead MEP seeks weaker combustion plant pollution law

Operators of medium combustion plants should be given more lenient air pollution caps and extended compliance deadlines, an MEP leading work on a new pollution law has proposed.

Medium combustion plants should be divided into three categories according to their thermal input with less stringent air pollution limit values applied to smaller installations, according to EPP group MEP Andrzej Grzyb.

The European Commission’s proposal imposed the same limit values for all plants with a thermal input of 1-50MW. But member states want less stringent limits for plants with a maximum output of 5MW to cut costs.

Mr Grzyb's draft position also introduces various exceptions which would, for example, exempt the smallest plants firing woody biomass from complying with SO2 limits and give plants burning heavy fuel oil more generous caps on the pollutant until 2035.

The draft also includes a long list of plants that would be exempted from complying with the law, including recovery boilers used by pulp industry, gas turbines on offshore platforms, refineries, crematories and reactors in the chemical industry, as well as plants in remote island locations.

The draft would also tone down the European Commission’s proposal to oblige member states to apply stricter emission limit values to plants in zones that are not complying with EU air quality limits by making it voluntary. This is in line with a draft recommendation being discussed in the Parliament’s industry and energy committee.

Mr Grzyb's approach is similar to that adopted by environment ministers in December, seeking to reduce costs to industry and extend deadlines for meeting targets.

A spokesman for refineries association FuelsEurope said that since refinery emissions are already regulated under the Industrial Emissions Directive, including under a best available techniques reference document, combustion units in refineries should not be included in the medium combustion plant law.*

Environmental NGO EEB criticised the many exemptions and “much weaker” emissions limits, saying these called into question how useful the law will be.

“It is supposed to protect people’s health, not give industry a free ride,” said the EEB’s Louise Duprez.

MEPs now have until early March to table their amendments. The environment committee is scheduled to vote on the matter in April.

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Issue 39