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Preventing accidents involving dangerous substances

ENVI Press release - Environment04-10-2011 - 15:15

On Tuesday, the anniversary of Hungary's "red mud" disaster, the Environment Committee voted to update accident prevention rules for dangerous substance sites, with improved chemical classifications, clearer information for the public and more frequent inspections.

The vote (52 in favour, 3 against and no abstentions) recommends updates to Seveso Directive rules, which were first introduced in the 1970s after an accident in the Italian town of that name. The 10,000 sites affected must have accident prevention and response plans. Around 20-30 accidents are reported to the European Commission yearly.

The update will take account of new UN-agreed international classifications of substances, which allow better risk evaluation and handling of substances. It will not significantly change the number of sites falling under the rules.

The Environment Committee text stresses that the public should have access to clear information about local sites on the internet. "The aim is to provide essential information in an easily understandable form to interested citizens, while respecting national security concerns and the legitimate confidentiality of businesses," said rapporteur Janós Áder (EPP, HU).

Inspections should be made at least every three years and at least once a year for higher-risk sites, say MEPs. While some Seveso sites already meet these rules under the Industrial Emissions Directive, this means that others will be inspected more often in future.

MEPs call on the Commission to examine whether the scope of the Seveso Directive should be extended in future, for example to include offshore oil exploration, pipelines and certain nanomaterials.

In the Chair: Jo Leinen (S&D, DE)

REF. : 20111003IPR28099