ICPE legislation (the French site classification system for environmental protection) comes from Book V of the French environment laws. It classifies installations as “any industrial or agricultural concern likely to create risks or to generate pollution or otherwise harmful results, particularly endangering the health and safety of people living nearby.”
The scheme for classified installations is one of the oldest in the French environment laws, the latest modifications of which came into force with the system of single authorisation on 1st March 2017.
The ICPE classification schemes
An installation classified for environmental purposes may be concerned by several ‘schemes’, the regulatory impacts and associated constraints of which are not necessarily the same. There are 3 different ICPE schemes, plus an additional intermediate measure:
This scheme concerns the least polluting and least dangerous activities. Only a simple declaration to the Prefect is required. The declaration document contains information concerning the operator of the installation, its address, the activities carried out at the site, including the volumes and quantities of product/substance stored or treated on site. The cadastral maps of the zone and the plans relating to effluent collection networks must be communicated. Finally, one is required to give a description of the processes taking place on site - treatment of the liquids, gases and solids - and how incidents are managed.
Declaration with periodic checks (DC)
Certain installations under the declarative scheme are required to have periodic inspections carried out to ensure compliance. Such inspections are the responsibility of the site operator. However, usually this is entrusted to an external registered survey company selected by the site owner.
This scheme is a first intermediate arrangement between declaration and authorisation - as part of the latest reforms in this area - and is generally referred to as the ‘simplified authorisation’ scheme. This concerns certain industrial sectors where the technical concepts and operational procedures are very well-known and standardised throughout the sector. The site operator lodges a dossier (with the departmental Prefecture concerned by the site) which clearly lays out the site’s compliance with all ministerial decrees concerning minimising environmental impact.
This covers those installations with the most potentially polluting risks. The site operator must expressly request authorisation prior to any start-up of operations, clearly demonstrating its acceptance of the risk - the Prefect may grant or refuse such a request to start operations. The authorisation dossier requires a far greater level of detailed information than that required for registration, adding detailed site EHS measures and not simply the measures associated with the environment. The objective here is to demonstrate the existence of action plans and specific measures for protecting the health and safety of all site personnel.
The procedure lasts on average a year - but may take several years depending on the situation - and a prefectural decree will then give instructions which need to be followed by the site operator.