Answer given by Mr Dimas on behalf of the Commission
Of the pollutants mentioned by the Honorable Member, the limit value for benzene is established in Directive 2000/69/EC(1) relating to limit values for benzene and carbon monoxide in ambient air, and the target value for Benzo(a)pyrene as a marker for polyaromatic hydrocarbons is set in Directive 2004/107/EC(2) relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air. Member States have been obliged to assess and annually report the assessed concentrations of benzene throughout their territory since 2003. The first report for benzo(a)pyrene is due in 2009 in relation to 2008 concentrations. While there was no reported increase in levels of benzene in 2005, the information for the Basilicata region is still missing for the reporting years 2006 and 2007. The Commission is taking steps to ensure that the information becomes available.
There is no limit value for hydrogen sulphide in ambient air set at the EU level and oil extraction installations do not fall under the scope of the IPPC Directive 2008/1/EC(3) concerning integrated pollution prevention and control.
According to the sources available to the Commission, Italy also does not have any such limit value, which could be compared to the federal United States (US) recommendation of 1.4 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) (California 2.8 μg/m3, Massachusetts 8.6 μg/m3) for hydrogen sulphide in ambient air.
There are, however, national regulations on emissions of hydrogen sulphide: the Italian Legislation on industrial emissions(4) sets a limit value for oil extraction plant of 10 μg/m3 for hydrogen sulphide emissions from the combustion process of the flue gases. This limit value applies to all the existing plant as of 1988. The plants built after 1988 should have a permit issued from the competent authorities. The permit should specify the emission limit value for the hydrogen sulphide which must not be higher than 10 μg/m3. Further information can be found at: http://www.basilicatanet.it/eni/DatiEni.asp and related pages of Regione Basilicata.
The ratio of 10 000 between Italian and US regulations referred to in the question therefore arises from a mix-up between the limits applicable to emissions from industrial processes and the limits for concentration levels in ambient air.
In case of new installations or modification of existing installations related to the extraction of petroleum, Council Directive 85/337/EEC(5) on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (the ‘EIA Directive’) as amended by Directives 97/11/EC(6) and 2003/35/EC(7) applies. Under this directive projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue, inter alia, of their nature, size or location, must be made subject to an assessment of their environmental effects prior to development consent.
Under the directive, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is mandatory where the amount exceeds 500 tonnes/day of petroleum. For surface industrial installations below this threshold for the extraction of petroleum, Member States authorities must determine, in a procedure called ‘screening’, if a project is likely to have significant effects. If it is, an EIA must be carried out. Member States have to ensure that the screening determination made by the competent authorities is made available to the public.
When an EIA is carried out, consultations with the public and other authorities likely to be concerned by reason of their specific environmental responsibilities have to take place and the decision for development consent must take into account the outcomes of the above consultations and information provided by the developer to the competent authorities as part of the EIA procedure. Finally, the decision to grant or refuse development consent has to be made available to the public.
Apart from the reporting obligation under Directive 2000/69/EC the Commission is currently not aware of any potential breach of the EU environmental legislation in the area.