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EU to Allow Dirtiest Coal-Fired Plants to Operate until 2023 without Emission Cuts

The European Union has agreed that coal-fired plants don’t have to cut emissions that cause acid rain if they shut down by the end of 2023 or after 17,500 hours of operation, and power stations that operate into 2024 and beyond must start reducing pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides under a deal for the new Industrial Emissions Directive, reports Reuters. The rules do not cover carbon dioxide emissions.

German liberal politician Holger Krahmer, who represented the European Parliament in the talks, told Reuters the deal, which was formally approved by EU ambassadors on Friday (June 18), improves the regulation of most industrial installations but described the opt-outs for coal-fired power plants as a “European tragedy.”

The European Parliament also agreed to extend the life of large combustion plants, typically found in power stations, petrol refineries and steel works, which mean these plants do not have to comply with the directive until July 1, 2020, reports EuropeanVoice.

Industrial plants will be expected to comply with the new emissions rules by 2012, tightening emissions limits for a wide range of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, dust, asbestos and heavy metals, reports EuropeanVoice.com.

The law also will require industrial plants from steel-works to meat-processing plants to use the most advanced technologies and practices to reduce waste and hazardous substances, reports EuropeanVoice.com.

However, National authorities will be allowed to give licenses to plants that do not use “best available techniques,” if they result in “disproportionately higher costs” compared to the environmental benefits, according to the article.

The Industrial Emissions Directive combines six air quality laws with the existing Large Combustion Plant Directive, reports Reuters. The deal must be formally approved by parliament before becoming law.

European commissioners also are expected to start talks on introducing minimum tax rates for carbon this week (June 23), reports EurActiv.

A potential proposal would need unanimous backing of every member state to become law but the UK and Ireland are against Brussels setting taxes, according to EurActiv. Nordic countries support the proposal because they implemented similar national carbon taxes in the 1990s.

In addition, some Commission departments are concerned about the timing of the measure, which could potentially harm the competitiveness of European farmers and car manufacturers.

There is also debate over plans to exempt energy products that fall under the EU’s emissions trading scheme (EU ETS). Because many carbon-trading industries get free allowances, this means they won’t pay for either allowances or taxes, reports EurActiv.

The new energy tax policy could make renewable fuels cheaper than fossil fuels.

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