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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

EU against pollution, 04. 2010

Today:
  1. Commission holds on to soil protection law
  2. EU considers changing REACH chemicals law
  3. Commission sees breakthrough on REACH chemicals law
  4. Parliament seeks compromise on EU air pollution law
Quote of the day: "But imagine what would happen if all over the EU the soils become infertile in the same time. I think that would be a HUGE problem - imagine all the farmers who won't have a job, all the production that we would have to import."

Commission holds on to soil protection law

17 March 2010
Amid resistance from EU ministers, Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has defended an EU directive on soil by claiming that national policies are not delivering and land management increasingly affects cross-border issues like climate change, biodiversity and water pollution.

Meanwhile, the Spanish EU Presidency said the bloc needed to "face reality" and recognise that there is not enough agreement between member states to proceed with the draft law.

Some delegations are already suggesting that after years of deadlock over the dossier, it is time for the EU to look at "alternative ways" of promoting soil protection without overtly focusing on legislation.

Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Malta continue to form a blocking minority in the Council on the grounds of respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and concerns over its expected cost and administrative burden.

While Potočnik stressed that "subsidiarity is not an excuse for non-action," he promised to shift the focus on to aspects related to the proposal in the months to come in a drive to get all member states on board.

While some member states have done "decent work," the agreed non-binding instruments on soil protection "have clearly not worked well," Potočnik declared, arguing that "eroding the Commission proposal would probably not bear fruit" either.

While some delegations stressed that as soil does not move between member states like air and water it should not be subjected to EU legislation, Potočnik argued to the contrary.

Responding to criticism of the potentially high implementation cost of the proposed directive, Commissioner Potočnik regretted that people see only the cost of action and stressed that "the cost of non-action is not seen, but is very high".

A Commission impact assessment shows that soil degradation in Europe costs €38 billion every year, Potočnik noted. source

My comment: It's somewhat strange that member-states don't get why soil protection is important. Bulgaria was the perfect example of what happens when the soil erodes. Here, the soil quality got very low some 20 years ago, because of the over-use of chemistry. A report stated that the soil will require ~ 20 years to heal. This information was never public, but it's true. In our case, the socialism came, the agriculture went to hell, so nobody felt the problem with the soils and now, when people start producing, they are more or less fine. But imagine what would happen if all over the EU the soils become infertile in the same time. I think that would be a HUGE problem - imagine all the farmers who won't have a job, all the production that we would have to import. And all the money that would be injected in fertilizers instead of science...

EU considers changing REACH chemicals law

23 March 2010
Parts of the 1000-page REACH chemicals regulation remain unclear and need to be amended in order to speed up the subsitution of hazardous chemicals with safer ones, Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said yesterday (22 March).

REACH implementation is "bad" and the current situtation is "non-sustainable," Potočnik told members of the press.

His comments come after a series of delays in beginning the authorisation process at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

The implementation of REACH and "the route to substitution" need to be speeded up, Potočnik stressed.

There are currently 29 substances on a candidate list of 'substances of very high concern' (SVHC), which are being considered for substitution, and another seven substances on a priority list. But there are none on the substitution list yet, Potočnik said, suggesting the numbers should be higher (EurActiv 15/01/10).

SVHCs include chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. They also tend to persist in the environment and accumulate in the body.

The 29 substances currently on the candidate list fall far short of the 350-odd substances identified for priority substitution on a 'REACH SIN List', drafted jointly by public interest groups and NGOs (EurActiv 16/09/08). The current list also fails to cover the 400-plus substances identified by a group of member states as meeting the official REACH criteria.

In a letter to the European Commission, the NGOs said it was "unacceptable" that the Commission has not yet taken action on the seven prioritised SVHCs recommended by the ECHA in May 2009.

The substances to be placed on the so-called "authorisation list" will in future only be used in the EU if "authorised" for specific purposes.

Under the REACH regulation, even if a substance presents a risk to human health or the environment, authorisation may be granted if the socio-economic benefits are proven to outweigh risks arising from its use and if there are no suitable alternatives.

Indeed, the main sticking point regarding the definition and use of the criteria seems to be between the Commission's environment and industry departments, EurActiv has learned.

The commissioner also reaffirmed his opposition to extending the REACH registration deadline of 30 November 2010 for chemicals that are produced in high volumes and are the most hazardous. EU industry has expressed concern about meeting the deadline.

According to the REACH regulation, failure to register by the deadline means that a substance cannot be used or put on the market. source

My comment: 1000 pages? ROFL! Did anyone EVER read all of them? I'm not overreacting, after all that document is supposed to be read not by lawyers with a lot of free time, but by the producers and the consumers. I think one of the main problem of the EC is that they can't figure what's their purpose. They seem to be obsessed with paper-wasting. And that's not what it's all about. You define the categories, you decide what are the requirements for each of them, you decide what exclusion mechanisms to allow and that's it. Everything else should be like patent applications - someone fills a form, someone judges and the chemicals is put in one of the categories. I can understand 100 pages document. But 1000 is way too much. And what I don't get is how it's possible not to ban chemicals that you know that are VERY dangerous, that they damage human body or the nature to a level that cannot be justified. What exactly means socio-economic benefits?! For me, the only reason to use a chemical that is hazardous is 1) if you cannot obtain its effect by any other ways 2) if you're able to secure that nobody will get hurt by your actions. Because otherwise, it looks like someone get a permission to kill, based on "socio-economic benefits".

Commission sees breakthrough on REACH chemicals law

31 March 2010
The European Commission said it broke a deadlock today (25 March) on setting the criteria for identifying hazardous chemicals, requesting companies to table plans to substitute them even if no alternatives have been clearly identified.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani announced today (25 March) that they have found a common approach to identifying and managing Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs).

SVHCs include chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. They also tend to persist in the environment and accumulate in the body.

The agreement was announced during a visit by the two commissioners to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki.

The commissioners' "common interpretation of the REACH text" breaks the deadlock on substituting hazardous substances and represents a step change compared to the situation that prevailed under the previous Commission.

The agreement clarifies the authorisation procedure for hazardous substances on socio-economic grounds. Under the Commission's new procedure, "all available information is to be considered and will be used in a so-called 'weight of evidence approach'".

In addition, companies which have been unable to identify alternative solutions for a dangerous substance will have to show they have carried out in-depth investigations and must indicate a timeline within which alternative substances could become available.

According to the EU executive, implementation of the amended criteria will be subject to transitional arrangements. It will become mandatory for registrants two years after the entry into force of the agreed criteria, which will be stated in the revised Annex XIII of REACH.

Now that this deadlock has been broken, the Commission says it will shortly give "the long-awaited draft guidance on authorisation" to the ECHA to allow it to make progress on registering chemicals and managing Substances of Very High Concern.

The Commission also asked the European Chemicals Agency to add 106 more substances to the current candidate list of SVHCs, which may need to go through special authorisation procedures before being used.

A roadmap agreed by the EU executive and the ECHA is expected to bring the number of chemicals on the list of SVHCs to 135 by 2012.

source

My comment: Oh, well, that's some advance. But still, I think the EC should consider very carefully what exactly socio-economic benefits mean. Because it certainly doesn't sound good!

Parliament seeks compromise on EU air pollution law

22 March 2010

The European Parliament has reopened the debate on a revision of the EU's industrial air pollution directive, tabling a new proposal that seeks to compromise with member states by dropping controversial plans to introduce a 'European safety net' of minimum emission limits.

The proposal aims to closer align the Parliament's views with those of member states in order to reach agreement on the legislation, which will require some 52,000 industrial installations to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil or water.

The new Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) recasts seven existing directives, including the IPPC and the Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCP), in a bid to reinforce implementation and close loopholes that have allowed member states to abuse flexibility mechanisms.

Krahmer's new proposal scraps a flagship concept added to the draft law by MEPs at first reading, the 'European safety net', which would have created EU-wide minimum emission limit values that no operator is allowed to exceed.

The idea was fiercely opposed in the Council of Ministers by many member states, which do not want to see Brussels reduce their flexibility to issue permits.

In response to national concerns, Krahmer has tabled a modified proposal, which no longer requires minimum limit values as a general principle but on a sector-by-sector basis.

The European Commission would be tasked with investigating the implementation of best-available techniques in each sector and the environmental impact of the sectors. It could then adopt EU-wide minimum requirements for emission limit values, if the report deems it necessary to do so.

The new proposal will require the approval of a qualified majority of MEPs in plenary to be adopted as an official Parliament position. The Greens and Socialists have been supportive of minimum emission limit values, but the centre-right European People's Party group is more divided, with some members sharing their governments' opposition. source

My comment: Yeah, like we didn't see what happened with ETC under the "sector-by-sector" basis. Some got a lot of permits, some didn't. And in the end, we didn't see any improvements in those sectors that were favorised. When the idea of the free permits was to allow those heavy emitting sectors to invest in better installation with those money. But that didn't happen, right? So I doubt it will work in this case much better. Of course, if the directive was never implemented, despite the fact it existed, it doesn't make a lot of sense to make another one that nobody would ever implement. I think it's important to focus on the "best-available technology" principle. Of course, it's not realistic to expect everyone to use the best technology available, but I think it's very realistic to expect them to use some average best technology. Something that is not the best, but it's not the worst neither. Something that would guarantee an European-wide maximum of the emissions. And maybe to get bonuses for better technologies. That would help both those sectors and the science behind the technologies :) Nice, right?


EU clamps down on carbon market fraud -EU finance ministers approved on Tuesday (16 March) a directive to clamp down on VAT fraud in carbon markets by allowing member states to shift the levy to the end user.

New UN expert group to study ship emissions - The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) last week agreed to establish an expert group to prepare a feasibility study on market-based instruments to cut greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

Sweden eyes nuclear revival after 30-year ban - The centre-right Swedish government unveiled legislation on 22 March to allow the construction of new nuclear reactors, in a bid to replace the ten ageing ones that still produce about 40% of the country's electricity.

Czech energy giant slowly turning green - The Czech Republic's leading power company, ČEZ, has promised to turn to energy efficiency and environmentally-friendly projects, but local NGOs say it must still improve its green energy strategy.
Oil industry emissions 'underestimated', study warns - An underestimation of the expected surge in emissions from oil-based fossil fuels could undermine the EU's climate goals, the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) warned yesterday (18 March).

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