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IPPC Directive application of the Outokumpu industry in Finland

Kirjallinen kysymys komissiolle
14.12.2011 Isabella Lövin (Greens/EFA) & Satu Hassi (Greens/EFA)

The steel company Outokumpu has applied for permission to increase their production of steel and ferrochromium in their plant in Tornio, Finland, near the Swedish border.
 
The increased production is expected to further increase already high levels of emissions of chromium, cyanide, nickel and mercury – substances with serious health and environmental effects. This is worrying, since Outokumpu already has exceeded the allowed emission levels on several occasions. Already today, the highest levels of chromium in Sweden are found in Haparanda municipality, a few kilometres from the Outokumpu plant in Tornio. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, carcinogenic hexavalent chromium is leaking from an Outokumpu waste deposit.
 
Historically the IPPC requirements have not been consistently applied in the Swedish-Finnish border area, therefore seriously jeopardizing people’s health and the environment. In this case there are two issues in particular that should be scrutinised.
 
Firstly, the IPPC directive requires that the best available techniques must be used to reduce industrial emissions. However, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has pointed out several instances where best available technique is not applied in the Tornio plant and where emissions could be reduced further.
 
Secondly, the IPPC directive requires that the permits must take into account the whole environmental performance of the plant, covering e.g. emissions to air, water and land, generation of waste etc.
 
In this case, the Border River Commission between Sweden and Finland was the competent authority to grant permits until 2010. Before its authority was removed in 2010, the Border River Commission tried the permit for water emissions from the Outokumpu plant, not taking into account the emissions to the air.
 
The Finnish Regional State Administrative Agency that is now responsible for environmental permits is expected to decide on Outokumpu’s application to increase production before the end of 2011.
 
Does the Commission share the concerns that a separate trial of water and air emission risks circumventing the IPPC directive’s requirement on an integrated approach? If an eventual granting of a permit from the Finnish authorities does not comply with IPPC requirements, how does the European Commission intend to act?