Evolution of the IPPC release on the basis of BAT conclusions

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The IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) is an administrative act which is required by State authorities to allow an emission plant to operate. Initially conceived by the European Union (Directive 96/61/CE), every Member State later implemented national environmental legislation with the aim of reducing their emissions in compliance with EU legal parameters. 

The IPPC is not a tool specifically aimed at assessing the compatibility of a production site with its territorial location and its potential negative effects on the environment. On the contrary, it is a procedure aimed at assessing that the operations carried out have a reduced environmental impact, in compliance with prefixed conditions, in order to limit pollution and the consumption of environmental resources. 

In Italy, the competent authority who releases the IPPC is the Region or the Province, depending on the kind of emission released by the plant. For those plants with a deep impact on the environment, the IPPC is released by the Ministry of the Environment, based on the assessment of a preparatory work carried out by a specific technical commission situated in the territory concerned. A Conference of local entities providing public services is convened to carry out the preliminary assessment phase, calling into action local councils among which the mayor of the municipality concerned expresses potential criticalities on sanitation or town planning. The IPPC is mandatorily required for a series of production sites which may have a negative impact on the environment as prescribed by the Environmental Code, namely those that carry out energetic activities; production and transformation of metals, mineral production, chemical industrial activites and waste disposal.

A new discipline introduced in 2014 marked a significant turning point in the release of the IPPC. Legislative Decree 46/2014 (transposing on the national level Dir. 75/2010/EU) significantly reshaped the normative framework and requirements of industrial emissions relating to IPPC. The assessment to release the IPPC is based on the identification and adoption of the Best Available Techniques (BAT), which guarantees the best results in terms of an integrated perspective, considering those most technically advanced to date. 

The Italian Environmental Code provides that new environmental authorisations are based on BAT, indicating the best technical tools available at the time of the issue regarding the project, construction, maintenance, exercise and closure of the plant, in order to reduce the emissions in the air, water and soil, also with regard to waste production. Documents referring to BATs imply the best available technologies, including their description, information on their application and the level of emissions associated with the best available tecnologies. BATs are used to identify technical and environmental requisites to release the IPPC. 

The acronym of BAT implies three key concepts are to be considered. “Best” stands for those techniques which are most efficient, allowing plants to achieve a higher level of environmental protection as a whole. “Available” means that the technologies concerned be developed on a stage which allow their application in advantageous economic and technical conditions. “Techniques” refers to those techniques adopted in relation to the project, construction, exercise and closure of the plant. 

An IPPC is now released taking into account the BAT conclusions, merging those relevant conclusions released by the State and relevant documents issued by the European Commission (BREFs documents). Indeed, this new reform introduced significant leeway for Member States to release the IPPC, considering territorial specificity of the plant and its location. Before Directive 75/2010/EU, the IPPC was released exclusively with regard to BREFs (BAT reference documents elaborated by the European Commission). The IPPC is released on a ten year period basis and within this period it shall be reassessed in order to confirm or update the conditions of the release, taking into account the BAT conclusions applicable to the plant and adopted when the authorisation has been conceded or reassessed.  

These guidelines are not strictly binding, but they shall be taken into account by the public administration to assess the level of emissions allowed and granted to the concerned plants.  

The competent authority fixes the levels of emissions on the basis of its own technical discretion, considering the best available techniques present on the market. In this regard, BATs are a reference document which the competent authority shall abide by in its discretional activity in order to determine the conditions to prescribe with regard to the technical elements of the plant and the fixation of emission limits. However, in those cases where compliance with BAT has already been achieved by the plants, the competent authority cannot derogate from them.

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