South Korea Releases Pollution Prevention, Control Rules

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By James Lim

July 1 — The operators of heavily polluting incinerator and power generation facilities must obtain “one-stop” approval, instead of different classes of permits, under a new pollution control program that will be rolled out in 2017, South Korea's Ministry of Environment said.

The permit approval is included in the rules and regulations that the ministry released June 30 to enforce the Law on the Integrated Regulation of Environmental Pollution Facilities, which South Korea enacted in December 2015 and set for implementation as of Jan. 1, 2017.

The new environmental law introduces the concept of integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC), as practiced in the European Union, to integrate the regulatory control of industrial pollution under a workplace-based system.

“The integrated environmental permit system will act as a one-stop shop for obtaining regulatory clearance for the entire range of environmentally regulated operations,” the ministry said in a statement.

Under the current system, companies must be granted up to 10 permits from local governments for operating facilities that generate emissions to air and water, including particles, volatile organic compounds, odor and noise, under six different laws.

The IPPC scheme, however, will allow companies operating polluting facilities to file for integrated permits and manage their clearance through the ministry's IPPC-dedicated online portal.

“We see IPPC as an improvement of the current environmental permitting system in terms of eliminating overlapping and inefficient red tape and promoting businesses' ability to control their own environmental compliance,” Lee Chang-heum, director of the IPPC program at the ministry, told Bloomberg BNA June 30.

Timeline for IPPC

The new law does not cover all polluting facilities. The Enforcement Regulation and the Enforcement Decree, which do not require parliamentary approval, limit the law to workplaces that generate 20 tons or more of air pollution annually or 700 cubic meters or more of wastewater daily in 19 industries.

According to the ministry, about 1,340 workplaces will be subject to IPPC, while all other workplaces remain under the current system.

The timeline for IPPC implementation varies by industry, beginning in 2017 for power generation, steam supply and waste incineration; 2018 for ferrous metals, nonferrous metals and organic chemicals; 2019 for oil refining, fertilizers, chemical products and inorganic chemicals; 2020 for pulp and paper, other paper products, and electronics; and 2021 for plastics, textiles, alcoholic beverages, meat processing, auto parts and semiconductors.

The IPCC will be effective as of Jan. 1, 2017, while existing facilities will have a four-year grace period to obtain IPPC status.

Environmental Standards

The cornerstone of IPPC is workplace-based emissions limits set in accordance with national and area environmental standards. These limits will be subject to review every five years and revised accordingly, including significant changes to existing facilities that increase emissions by 30 percent or more, for best available techniques and area environmental conditions.

A combination of self-monitoring and workplace inspections will be used to enforce compliance with workplace emissions standards. In addition, information on IPCC permits will be made public with the exception of sensitive trade secrets, according to the ministry.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Lim in Seoul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The Enforcement Decree of the Law on the Integrated Regulation of Environmental Pollution Facilities is available, in Korean, at

The Enforcement Regulation of the Law on the Integrated Regulation of Environmental Pollution Facilities is available, in Korean, at

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