Steel industry offered additional time to meet European emissions regulations

The government has confirmed the steel industry will be able to take advantage of special flexibilities to comply with new EU rules on emissions, which are now awaiting final approval.

This decision comes after unnecessary ‘gold-plating’ of EU regulations was named as one of the top five issues raised with the government by the steel industry.

The EU Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) could have added millions of pounds of additional costs to the industry in January 2016 at a time when it is already facing unprecedented global pressures. The UK pushed for transitional arrangements and derogations in the IED, and both will benefit the steel industry following detailed work between government and steel companies.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: "I am acutely aware of the challenges currently facing our steel industry and where the government can help support them we will.

"We recognised the costs these regulations could have and are working with businesses to agree a flexible and common sense way forward that doesn’t damage our competitiveness.

"Cutting red tape was one of the issues discussed at our recent steel summit and it is important that we are making progress quickly on it. I will also be going to Brussels tomorrow to make the case for firmer action on unfair trade.

Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel said: "This is a good step in the right direction which will be welcomed by steel companies in Britain. It is one of a series of measures promised by government which are vital to maintain a viable future for the steel industry in the UK. The Secretary of State’s visit to Brussels will also hopefully result in speedier action to support the industry in the short term."

The IED places more stringent emissions requirements on industry from January 2016. However, as a result of UK lobbying, member states are able to designate specific plants to be granted an additional 4 and a half years to meet these more stringent emissions levels by incorporating them in the Transitional National Plan. The UK government has included various steel sites in the UK’s Transitional National Plan, which has now been submitted to the European Commission for approval.

The IED also places a duty on industry to use the best available technology in order to reduce emissions to air, water and land to improve public health and protect the environment. In cases, where the costs would be disproportionate to the benefits, the government can provide derogations at its discretion, based on the evidence submitted. The Environment Agency is close to finalising its permit application for Tata, which will then be subject to consultation, and National Resources Wales have agreed derogations at Port Talbot.

The government wants to hear about any other areas where the steel industry has concerns about gold plating and regulation. The competitiveness and productivity working group convened following the Steel Summit on 16 October 2015, and progressing work on IED relief was a key objective.

On Wednesday (27 October 2015), the Business Secretary will be holding high-level meetings with the European Commission to make the case for firmer action on unfair trade operations damaging the steel sector in the UK and across Europe.

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