The IPPC Directive in a nutshell

The EU agreed the Directive on integrated pollution prevention and control in 1996.1 It applies to some 36,000 large industrial sites in the chemicals, food, metals, minerals, paper, textiles, waste and intensive livestock farming sectors.

IPPC requires each site - the proper term is "installation" - to have a permit to operate by 31 October 2007. It aims to control an installation’s environmental impacts, including releases to air, water and land, in an integrated way. Other impacts such as resource use and waste are also covered.

The permits set mandatory conditions on how operators should run their installations, including limits on polluting releases. The fundamental principle used by regulators in setting these conditions is ‘best available technique’ (BAT). This is defined as the most effective method of controlling an installation’s impacts that is economically viable in the industry sector.

Guidance on BAT for each sector is published by the Commission’s IPPC Bureau in BAT reference documents called BREFs.2 The documents are compiled by groups from industry and regulators and are reviewed periodically.

Although an operator must use BAT, the BREF guidance on BAT is non-statutory. The Directive allows regulators the flexibility to decide BAT for each installation.

The Directive allows the Commission to override BAT by proposing binding EU-wide emission limit values. Member states are also allowed to set ‘general binding rules’ instead of individual permit conditions, provided they ensure the same level of environmental protection.

The Directive has been amended to include rules on public participation in the permitting procedure and to remove IPPC’s greenhouse gases and energy use requirements where an installation is participating in the EU emissions trading scheme.

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