Brazil targeting industrial air emissions


Brazilian regulators have stepped up their fight against industrial air pollution. The National Environmental Council (Conama) recently drafted the country’s first nationwide air-emissions limits for industry and is expected to approve them in July for immediate implementation. Meanwhile, the heavily industrial state of São Paulo has set up its first-ever emissions trading program.

Both measures target new industrial facilities and thus are not expected to bring across-the-board reductions in industrial air contamination. But experts say they mark a serious attempt to control industrial air pollution at the state and national levels.

“Both the Conama decree and the São Paulo resolution force the industrial sector to adopt more efficient environmental policies and practices to control air pollution,” says Fernando Tabet, an environmental attorney with São Paulo’s Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr. e Quiroga law firm. “But for these initiatives to be effective, they will need government enforcement.”

The Conama resolution is meant to slow the rate of increase in industrial air emissions nationwide. The São Paulo decree, meanwhile, seeks to keep industrial air emissions from increasing in the most polluted parts of the state, an economic powerhouse that accounts for 40% of Brazil’s GDP.

Five pollutants targeted

Conama’s measure sets maximum levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile hydrocarbons and particulate matter (PM) for 13 industrial sectors including boiler operations fueled by oil, gas, sugarcane waste and wood; steel, lead and aluminum plants; gas-powered turbines; oil refining; pulp and paper making; and glass, cement and fertilizer manufacturing. Maximum pollutant levels vary, depending on the sector.

“As it doesn’t apply to existing facilities, [the resolution] is designed not to [cut] emissions, but to keep them from spiraling out of control,” says Claudio Alonso, a São Paulo state pollution-control official who led the Conama work group that drafted the resolution.

The Conama limits were set after two years of negotiations with industry. They take into account compliance costs and existing state-level standards, according to Cleidemar Valério, a technical advisor for Conama, a 108-member body that includes representatives of government, industry and green groups.

Says Cristina Yuan, a Conama member representing Brazil’s National Confederation of Industry (CNI): “Brazilian industries support the proposed resolution, provided it remains unaltered for a long time so they have a stable benchmark for estimating construction costs.”

Conama member Rodrigo Agostinho, a board member of the Vidagua Environmental Institute, a green group here, says nationwide air-pollution limits will bring consistency to what is now a patchwork of state air standards.

São Paulo state’s decree was issued on April 28, one week before Conama finished drafting its resolution. It requires owners of new and expanding industrial facilities in the state’s six most heavily industrialized regions to offset their additional pollution by obtaining emissions-reduction credits (ERCs) that certify emissions have been reduced by an equal amount elsewhere in the same region.

The decree, signed by Gov. Claudio Lembo, covers all pollutants targeted in the Conama resolution. Companies in the six designated regions will have to obtain air credits if new or expanded plants they’re planning exceed any of the following annual emissions thresholds: 40 tons of NOx, 250 tons of SOx, 100 tons of CO, 100 tons of PM and 40 tons of hydrocarbons. Such credits will be required in and around the state’s six most industrialized cities: São Paulo, Santos, Campinas, Sorocaba, Ribeirão Preto and São José dos Campos.

São Paulo’s credits

Companies that prove they’ve cut their emissions in one of these localities in the three years preceding the decree can get state-issued credits to build new facilities in that area. They also can sell credits to other businesses looking to build or expand in the same region. Reductions can be made by relocating or closing plants, boosting efficiency, adding pollution controls or cutting vehicle-fleet emissions.

Industry officials fear the supply of ERCs will not keep pace with demand, says Nilton Fornasari, environmental manager of Fiesp, São Paulo state’s industrial federation. Agrees Jaime Seta, São Paulo region environmental coordinator for Petrobras, the government-owned oil company: “Some companies could take the emission reductions credits they generate and use them for their own expansions, adding to a likely shortage of credits amid high demand.”

José Bichara, director of the Brazilian arm of Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a London-based environmental and engineering consulting firm, disagrees. “ERM in Brazil already has some chemical, petrochemical and steel-making clients planning to offer emissions-reduction credits by making their processes more efficient because they believe big demand will push up the prices for credits.”

- Michael Kepp

Rodrígo Agostinho
Vidagua Environmental Institute
Baurú, São Paulo state, Brazil
Claudio Alonso
São Paulo state Pollution Control Agency (Cetesb)
São Paulo, Brazil
Tel: +(55 11) 3030-6961
José Bichara
Environmental Resources Management (ERM)
São Paulo, Brazil
Tel: +(55 11) 5095-7917
Nilton Fornasari
São Paulo State Industrial Federation (Fiesp)
São Paulo, Brazil
Tel: +(55 11) 3549-4676
Oswaldo Lucon
São Paulo State Environment Secretariat
São Paulo, Brazil
Tel: +(55 11) 3133-3196
Fax: +(55 11) 3133-3185
Jaime Seta
São Paulo, Brazil
Tel: +(55 11) 3523-6063
Fernando Tabet
Environmental Attorney
Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr. e Quiroga
São Paulo, Brazil
Cleidemar Valério
Brazilian Environment Ministry
Brasília, Brazil
Tel: +(55 61) 4009-1297
Cristina Yuan
Brazilian Steel Institute
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel: +(55 21) 2141-0001