The European Commission published on 30 December 2021 an implementing decision to reduce emissions from large combustion plants. Large combustion plants are the biggest single source of air pollutant emissions in the EU, a major public health hazard contributing to around 400,000 premature deaths in the EU every year. The Decision makes it obligatory for these installations to operate with permits based on Best Available Techniques (BAT), meaning the most effective and advanced operation methods minimizing emissions and their impact on the environment.
“In supporting the Commission Implementing Decision, Member States have re-confirmed their strong support for reducing emissions from large combustion plants. This reinforcement of the measures adopted under the Industrial Emissions Directive will protect EU citizens from critical health risks and support Member States in achieving their national emission targets under EU air quality legislation,” Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said.
EU rules for reducing industrial emissions aim to achieve a high level of protection of human health and the environment by reducing harmful industrial emissions across the EU, in particular through better application of BAT. Decisions on BAT conclusions are the basis to reassess and update the environmental permits of industrial plants.
The BAT conclusions for large combustion plants were re-endorsed by Member States following a decision by the General Court Ruling in Case T-699/17 Poland v. European Commission to annul the original BAT conclusions published in 2017 on procedural grounds. With a view to complying with the General Court Ruling, the Commission adopted an act to replace the annulled Implementing Decision no later than 12 months following the judgment.
The Annex to the new act remains identical in content to the annulled Decision. The new Decision ensures continuity in the implementation as well as clarity and legal certainty for Member States and operators. This means that since 17 August 2021, no large combustion plants can operate without permits granted under Industrial Emission Directive (IED) and based on Best Available Techniques.
Under the Industrial Emissions Directive, the large combustion plants BAT Conclusions provide a description of emission levels tailored to the different sectors and fuels such as coal, lignite, natural gas or biomass, defining the allowed levels of fuel combustion, gasification of fuel, disposal and recovery of waste in co-incineration plants. Large combustion plants are found in a variety of industries, for example iron and steel, refineries, or chemical sectors, but the majority are used for electricity and heat generation.
Around 3,500 large combustion plants in EU fall under the scope of the IED and are required to operate in accordance with a permit granted by the authorities in the Member States. The permits do not allow installations concerned to exceed the emission levels associated with the use of BAT, as set in the BAT conclusions.