EPA Licensing Has Significant Influence on Emission Reductions

A recent study by Trinity College, Dublin has found that pollution emissions from licensed industry have fallen due to regulation. Between 2001 and 2007 there were aggregate pollution reductions of 22% for the chemical sector, 28% for the food and drink sector, 40% for the pharmaceutical sector and 45% for the power generation sector.

The project analysed annual emissions data submitted to the EPA by licensed industrial installations in accordance with the requirements of Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) regulation. The study found that whilst EU member states were given a 2007 deadline for full implementation of IPPC regulation, Ireland’s EPA had implemented similar regulation through its Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) licensing system since 1994. The extended experience with integrated (IPC and IPPC) licensing in Ireland provides a useful insight into the effectiveness of such regulation for Irish industry and policy-makers as well as for other EU countries.

Lead researcher David Styles at Trinity College, Dublin, comments: “What gets measured gets improved. Licensing has led to the measurement of key environmental performance parameters, and generated the evidence base required for any form of effective regulation.”

Pharmaceutical Sector

An example of the value of this extended experience is shown in the report’s analysis of the pharma (pharmaceutical) sector which indicates that integrated licensing is a highly effective and efficient driver of pollution reduction. Between 1995 and 2007 pollution output decreased by 59%, dominated by large reductions in emissions of sulphur oxides, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides to air, and heavy metals to water – however, emissions of carbon dioxide increased. Meanwhile, the aggregate tonnage of pharma production was estimated to have increased by 70%.

EPA director Laura Burke.

As part of the study, industry indicated that direct regulation under integrated licensing was the largest single driver of emission reductions, contributing more than voluntary regulation and corporate responsibility actions.

David Styles adds: “The economic benefit of avoided pollution was over double the emission control cost imposed on the pharma companies. The pharma sector is well financed and highly compliant with integrated licensing. Emission levels are generally below targets, and continuous improvements appear to be driven by anticipation of future emission limits, a focus on annual reporting and targets set in environmental management programmes. For sectors that are less financially secure and compliant, targets may be more challenging – additional research is required to assess the impact of integrated licensing on such sectors.”

The study was funded under the Environmental Protection Agency’s STRIVE Research Programme 2007- 2013.

“There is considerable debate about the efficiency of statutory regulation compared with alternative approaches to pollution control – particularly voluntary regulation and the use of economic instruments. Integrated licensing is demonstrably the best approach to industrial pollution control,” points out EPA director Laura Burke. “This report highlights the value of continued high quality environmental research to aid in the ongoing assessment of the impact of environmental policy and regulation in Ireland.”

The full report, entitled Emissions from IPPC Industry: Quantifying Pollution Trends and Regulatory Effectiveness is available on the EPA website at www.epa.ie/downloads/pubs/research/waste/ERC_16_Styles_IPPCEmissions_web.pdf.

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