Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report

The UK Government's Position

12. In an Explanatory Memorandum of 30 November 1998, submitted by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), the issue of subsidiarity is described as "complex". The Government points out that, on the one hand, most of the targeted emissions to air have transboundary impacts, which favours action at Community level, and that Directives already exist to control certain emissions from incineration. On the other hand, it suggests that, for those incinerators caught by the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive, uniform emission standards may not be necessary, and that reliance can be placed on the best available technology (BAT) approach being pursued under that measure. The Government does not share the view that control at Community level is necessary for some of the substances for which emission limit values are proposed for wastewater discharges, such as copper, chromium, arsenic, cobalt, manganese, nickel and vanadium. However, it acknowledges that other Member States may not concur with this view.

13. Despite these reservations, the Government favours tough standards for incineration, and in broad terms it supports the limit values contained in the proposal, as well as an integrated approach which aims at protecting all environmental media taken together. Emissions from waste incineration are already strictly regulated in the UK, particularly in relation to large scale incineration and hazardous wastes, whilst most other waste incinerators are regulated by local air pollution control. Except where Community legislation (principally the 1989 Municipal Waste Incineration Directives and the 1994 Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive) requires otherwise, these controls are established on a site specific basis, using the principle of best available techniques not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC), and thus take a different approach from the minimum emission levels in the Commission's proposal. Although the two approaches are likely to lead to similar emission limits for comparable processes, BATNEEC for individual processes will take into account a number of variable factors. Consequently, the Government would prefer an approach which would allow site specific matters to be taken into account, and believes there is also a general need to ensure that the provisions in the proposal align with the procedures, practices and definitions in the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive.

14. In relation to discharges of wastewater, the Government considers that the prescription of minimum emission limit values conflicts with the UK's approach, which is based on environmental quality standards, thereby allowing pollution to be controlled by the setting of discharge limits on a site-specific basis. By contrast, minimum emission levels do not take account of local circumstances: environmental quality standards represent the concentration of a particular substance which must not be exceeded in the receiving water, and in most circumstances are more stringent. The Government is also concerned that—unlike the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive—the proposal does not make allowance for the off-site treatment of wastewaters through the sewage treatment system, a practice which the Government regards as acceptable in some circumstances, as long as the overall objective of protecting the aquatic environment is achieved.

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