Minister backs HMIP's approach to experimental processes

HM Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) has been given ministerial backing to set quantitative limits on releases to the environment from experimental processes subject to integrated pollution control (IPC).

The question of how novel processes should be regulated under IPC was raised by a recent appeal by ICI against an HMIP authorisation for a large-scale experimental plant which will produce the CFC substitute, HFC-32. The authorisation contains quantitative annual release limits for several substances, but ICI is arguing that these are inappropriate until the process has been fully characterised (ENDS Report 214, p 8 ).

Questioned about the issue by the Liberal Democrat's environment spokesman, Simon Hughes, Environment Minister David Maclean said in a parliamentary answer that no comment could be made about the ICI appeal until it has been determined.1However, the answer goes on, "as a general principle, it is reasonable to set quantitative limits for all prescribed processes, after due consideration of all credible potential releases. If, due to the novel nature of a process, greater awareness of release limits improves with operation, then the authorisation may be amended to reflect this."

Quantitative release limits, the answer adds, are dictated by HMIP's precautionary approach to pollution control, and are needed in order to demonstrate compliance, through monitoring, with the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which require the use of the "best available techniques not entailing excessive cost" and achievement of the "best practicable environmental option".

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