New Industrial Emissions Directive needs to manage conflicting interests

CDP water stress
Energy and industrial companies stay behind in transparency. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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The European Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) is being tightened and now needs to manage conflicting interests. Water utilities and environmental organisations are happy with the stricter rules, but industry and agriculture see many practical objections. Behind the scenes the lobbying circuit is running at full speed. Soon the stricter rules will be discussed by the European Parliament.

The IED-proposal, presented by the European Commission in 2022, aims to protect the environment and human health against negative consequences of pollution from large industrial installations and livestock farms. In expert meetings, representatives of the water sector, industry and agriculture are discussing the new rules. For water and environmental organisations the new rules are not strict enough, but European companies fear that due to these new rules the business climate in Europe will deteriorate. Hot topics are including water companies in the licensing process, transparency about discharged substances and reversing the burden of proof by damage claims.

Additions from Parliament

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) assessed the committee proposal under the leadership of the Bulgarian rapporteur Radan Kanev (EPP) and the Dutch shadow rapporteur Mohammed Chahim (S&D). The MEPs have published their additions in a draft proposal. They want less strict rules for small-scale, organic livestock farms and more transparency about discharges of unknown substances. The amended proposal will soon be discussed in the European Environment Committee and the European Parliament is expected to vote later this year.

Lengthy procedures

The European trade association for the chemical industry Cefic is worried about involving water companies in the licensing process. The chemical industry is afraid that the new rules will be difficult to implement due to extra bureaucracy, a lack of capacity and a lack of chemical expertise among licensing authorities. Another bottleneck in the European Commission’s proposal is the publication of data on emitted substances. The new directive calls for more transparency, but the industry fears that trade secrets will be exposed. “Confidentiality regarding commercially sensitive information must be maintained. Detailed data should only be accessible to officials bound by confidentiality agreements. Other stakeholders will only have access to aggregated and anonymised information”, Cefic says in a statement on their website. But the Association of River Water Companies RIWA states this request from Cefic is irrelevant. “According to the Aarhus Convention, all information concerning the environment is public. This also applies to substances in discharges.”

Differences between Member States

Responses from the business community show that companies are particularly concerned about the business climate in Europe. In all comments, large companies refer to the importance of a level playing field in the common market. According to the industry, environmental regulations vary widely within the various European member states. This promotes unfair competition. The new directive should therefore be introduced and monitored in the same way in all Member States.

Reverse burden of proof

The European Commission’s IED-proposal also states that if companies or municipalities do not meet the standards of the European directive, local residents are entitled to compensation. In the new directive, the EU proposes that the reversed burden of proof applies in those situations. This means that companies must demonstrate that there is no relationship between non-compliance with European limit values and any health complaints. ” The industry does not agree with these statements, because it means companies and governments will always be guilty. The company that caused the exceedance can never prove that there is no causal connection. CEFIC also is against reversing the burden of proof in damage claims. According to the European umbrella organization of the chemical industry, this is contrary to national rules on evidence and civil procedure. “Proving innocence is almost impossible, therefore the burden of proof should remain with the plaintiff, as in all EU jurisdictions,” said CEFIC.

Water availability

“It is estimated that industry accounts for more than 40% of total water consumption in Europe. This makes industry an important catalyst in mitigating and overcoming water challenges in a sustainable and efficient manner,” said Pernille Weiss, chair of the water working group in the European Parliament.

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