Spain: This is the Royal Decree that aims to improve air quality and reduce episodes of high pollution

Spain - 

Royal Decree 34/2023 of January 24, 2023, amending the royal decree on improving air quality, the regulations on industrial emissions and on implementing the Law on integrated pollution prevention and control, and the royal decree on financial guarantees concerning waste, introduces significant environment-related amendments.

The main new legislation introduced by the new law notably includes:

1. Amendment of Royal Decree 102/2011 of January 28, 2011 on improving air quality

Royal Decree 102/2011 is amended to adapt it, in the event of episodes of high pollution, to the new pollution thresholds determined in the Short-Term Framework Action Plan approved by the official environment industry consultation body on July 9, 2021.

The aim of that plan is to ensure that responses to pollution alert situations are similar for all public authorities, as well as to reduce the number of times that the short-term target or limit values are exceeded. Additionally, it introduces the predictive component, allowing the determined measures to be implemented before the thresholds are exceeded where this is predicted to take place under pollution predictive models.

The plan contains measures to control activities that significantly increase the risk of exceeding the relevant limit values, target values or alert thresholds. Among these, measures may be implemented to regulate the circulation of vehicles, aircraft in landing or takeoff mode, building work, moored boats and the operations of industrial facilities, together with the use of products and domestic heating systems. Lastly, it provides for the option of requiring in action plans specific actions to protect the most vulnerable sectors of the population.

With this adapting aim, the new Royal Decree 34/2023 amends Royal Decree 102/2011 in relation to a few of the definitions it contains; the functions of the Green Transition and Demographic Challenge Ministry; the applicable measures where a few thresholds are exceeded; or the obligation for autonomous community governments and (where applicable) local authority entities to prepare short-term action plans.

2. Amendment of the regulations on industrial emissions and on implementing Law 16/2002 of July 1, 2002, on integrated pollution prevention and control, approved by Royal Decree 815/2013 of October 18, 2013

The amendments made to these regulations have a dual aim:

  • From one angle, to foment transparency for decisions on integrated environmental authorizations, so as to make them more easily accessible for the general public. To this end, all decisions granting, amending or reviewing integrated environmental authorizations are required to be displayed on the noticeboards of the local councils for the place where the facilities concerned are located, in addition to being available on the websites of the autonomous community governments.
  • From another, to reduce from six to five months the time period for delivering a decision on a review of an integrated environmental authorization, with the aim for this procedure to be shorter than the procedure for granting the authorization instrument, although longer than the procedure for a material amendment.

3. Amendment of Royal Decree 208/2022 of March 22, 2022 on financial guarantees concerning waste

The following new legislation has been added:

  • In relation to financial guarantees to cover the liability of certain entities or companies participating in the production or management of waste, an express reference is included, for greater legal certainty, to the potential exemptions set out in the Environmental Responsibility Law.
  • An amendment is made to the principle for calculating the amount of the guarantee relating to facilities that treat and store waste for the purpose of reducing its amount, due to being far higher than the amounts that the competent authorities have been requiring.
  • Similarly, an amendment is made to the principle applicable to the guarantee that may be required for managers of construction and demolition waste, and waste from iron and steel slag, to adapt it to the principle that has been used by the competent autonomous community authorities.