​Air Pollution Management

Control of Immissions or keeping the air clean.
Part 2 of the introductory series on environmental protection.
Reducing or controlling emissions to air is one of the three classic core areas of environmental law, along with waste disposal and water protection.

You can find the other articles in this series here:
Part 1: Waste disposal
Part 3: Water protection
Part 4: Energy and climate protection

Today, experts are debating whether this area should be extended to include energy and climate protection, or whether they should become a separate issue. The consumption of fossil fuels contributes significantly to emissions into the air, especially those that impact climate, keyword carbon dioxide. Energy consumption and climate protection, on the other hand, have become such extensive and complex issues that they can be considered a separate area.

Regardless of these considerations, I am splitting both topics into separate posts. This will keep it clearer.

​What are emissions and immissions, what is the difference

I’ll consult Wikipedia:

Emission (lat. emittere ‘to send out’) stands for:[…]
the emission of substances or radiation into the environment

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emission – my translation

In environmental law and ecology, immission (from the Latin immittere “to send in”) refers primarily to the impact of noise, dirt, radiation and other emissions on the environment.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immission – own translation

The German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) recognizes air pollution, noise, vibrations, light, heat, radiation and similar environmental effects or phenomena.

Air pollutants are changes in the natural composition of the air, in particular through smoke, soot, dust, gases, aerosols, vapors or odorous substances.

http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bimschg/__3.html – my translation

A rather extensive collection of various possibilities to release something into the environment that may cause disadvantages or nuisances for the environment, the neighbourhood or the general public.

I find it interesting and noteworthy (worth noting) that legislation regulates both sides of the coin. Both the release into the environment and the impact on the protected goods are regulated.

The German Clean Air Act thus has a very comprehensive regulatory scope. This can be seen, among other things, in the fact that there are now 44 ordinances relating to the act. From the Ordinance on Large Combustion Plants, Gas Turbines and Internal Combustion Engines (13th BImSchV), which applies to power plants. To the 32nd BImSchV, colloquially known as the Lawnmower Noise Ordinance.

​What does this mean for my business?

In clean air legislation, we know various areas that are regulated. These can apply in different forms and to very different extents to the individual company.

​Authorisation and obligations of operators

Certain types of installations are subject to permits under the BImSchG. This permit process not only concerns the construction, as in building law. In particular, it is the permit to operate the installation. I assume that the operators of such installations know that they are subject to approval.

Permits are usually linked to conditions and ancillary provisions, the operators´ obligations. Obligations of the operators already result from the law and can be read there. The obligations of the operators can be very far-reaching.

Good to know: the Clean Air Act (BImSchG) also contains obligations for operators of installations not subject to licensing.

​Emission and immission measurements

The obligation to measure emissions or immissions goes hand in hand with checking whether the measured values comply with specified threshold limit values. That is actually the more interesting part of it and it is different to European Best Available Technique Reference Documents which define bandwiths :

The BImSchG sets limit values. These must then of course be complied with. The measurements serve to determine whether the limit values are being complied with. If this is the case, measures must be taken to comply with the limit values in the future and – to put it very simply – measures must be taken to make amends.

The stupid thing about emissions into the air is that they are so far away in a very short time that they cannot be collected like a pile of rubbish. But they are not so far away that they cannot cause any damage.

​Nature of substances or installations

Actually two areas of the legislation. But can be combined for our purposes. Broadly speaking, it’s about setting certain limits. For example, the amount of noise a lawnmower can make. For example, the lead content in gasoline. Both examples you are probably familiar with.

These regulations are directed at the manufacturer or distributor of the products. They are not allowed to sell products that do not comply with the regulations.

However, the transition can be fluid. Lawn mower noise includes not only the noise that these devices make. There are also hours when it may be prohibited to use them.

​Monitoring and improvement

I can’t think of a better title right now, the title of this section in the law is too long for me.

In this part, requirements are placed on the competent authorities and bodies. Namely, to monitor the quality of the air over a larger area than for individual installations or industrial areas and to draw up plans on how to maintain and improve the quality of the air. Noise is an explicitly mentioned focal point.

​Types of air pollution and their effects

The different types of harmful effects are

  • Air pollution
  • Sounds
  • Vibration
  • Light
  • Heat
  • Rays
  • and the like

Their adverse effects can be summed up in one point:

  • Deterioration of the quality of life

Let’s be a little selfish: the image of the polar bear on the melting ice floe makes us concerned. But it quickly migrates to the fringes of our consciousness. If you can’t sleep because of the constant noise in the neighbourhood, that’s a completely different calibre.

I know I’m skating on thin ice here. There is climate change. It is man-made. It will cause us immediate problems. Nevertheless, the things that are already directly affecting me today are the things that I am concerned about.

​What does this mean for your business?

Three questions:

  • Do you know what emissions are coming from your business, your plant, your activity?
  • Do you know what regulations and perhaps permit requirements apply to you as a result?
  • Do you know what limitations or limits this places on your activity?

And beyond that: What more can you do to preserve a world worth living in for yourself and all of us?