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European Union member countries April 28 voted in favor of tighter pollutant emissions limits for power plants and other large-scale combustion facilities within the bloc, a move environmental groups said would prevent thousands of premature deaths annually.
The tighter limits were resisted by a group of eight mainly Eastern Europe and former communist EU members that rely on coal for electricity. Their opposition, however, was not enough to prevent a regulatory committee of EU national representatives from approving the limits, which now can be formally adopted by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.
The new limits will apply four years after the formal decision approving them and will cover a range of substances, including ammonia, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, fine particles and heavy metals.
About 3,500 facilities would be affected, though “some of them are already complying,” the commission told Bloomberg BNA in a statement.
The regulatory committee approved the limits under the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive (IED, 2010/75/EU), which requires polluting industrial facilities to meet standards considered to be equivalent to the best available techniques (BAT) for pollution control in their sectors. The new limits are contained in an updated BAT reference document for large combustion plants.
Among the facilities covered by the stricter pollutant limits would be “all of Europe’s coal-fired power stations, which represent some of the biggest single point sources of these emissions,” the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said in a statement.
The reduced pollution from coal-fired plants would lead to 20,000 fewer premature deaths a year, the bureau said.
Governments were influenced to support the tighter pollutant limits by a campaign organized by environmental groups ahead of the vote, the EEB’s Anton Lazarus told Bloomberg BNA.
“Governments know that air pollution is something citizens care about deeply, and because of our campaign they also knew they would be held accountable for how they voted today,” he said.
The countries that voted against the updated limits were Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. All other EU countries voted in favor.
“We do not agree with this approach,” Poland’s Secretary of State for Environment Pawel Salek said in a statement. Compliance with the new limits would cost Polish companies 10 billion zlotys ($2.6 billion), he said.
The commission said the Industrial Emissions Directive allowed countries facing difficulties in meeting the new limits to apply for derogations for specific plants, which would be granted if “reaching the performance levels would lead to disproportionate costs” relative to the environmental benefits.
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Documents related to the April 28 vote on emissions of large-scale combustion plants are available at http://bit.ly/2qmw8iT.
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