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In 1794, the explosion of the Grenelle powder factory just outside Paris, causing the death of 1,000 people, started to raise awareness of the risks and nuisances potentially generated by human activities.

In 1806, an order by the Paris Police Commissioner obliged hazardous or unhealthy installation operators to report their activity. This order was completed and extended over the entire French territory by the Imperial decree of 15 October 1810 on hazardous, unhealthy and inconvenient facilities, which was the starting point of the French legislation on classified installations. Industrial facilities, divided into three categories according to the significance of the hazard, were then located at varying distances from housing areas.

The law of 19 December 1917 improved the system by imposing simple declaration system upon less hazardous facilities.

In the late 60s, the Inspectorate of classified installations, formerly under the responsibility of labour inspection services, was entrusted to the mines inspectorate and transferred to the ministry of the environment upon its creation in 1971.

The law of 19 July 1976 on classified installations for environmental protection became the legal foundation of the industrial environment in France. This text is based on what is known as integrated approach, i.e. one permit only is issued and regulates all relevant aspects : risk of accident, waste, emissions into the water, air, soil… In addition, one authority has exclusive jurisdiction over the enforcement of this legislation : the Inspectorate of classified installations.

The law of 30 July 2003, following the dramatic explosion of Toulouse’s AZF plant in 2001, reinforced risk prevention. At the same time, the number of monitorings made by the Inspectorate of classified installations has increased.

In Europe, there are separate “risks” and “nuisances” approaches. The emotion caused by the accidental emissions of dioxin in the SEVESO municipality, Italy, in 1976 encouraged the European States to adopt a common policy in terms of prevention of major industrial risks. On 24 June 1982, EU directive 82/501/EEC, known as the “SEVESO” directive, required that States and companies identify the risks associated with certain hazardous industrial activities and take the necessary measures to tackle them. This directive was amended several times and its scope was progressively extended, notably subsequent to the following accidents

- pollution of the Rhine in 1986 by 30 tons of mercurial pesticides following a fire in a Basel warehouse (Switzerland)

- cyanide spill in the Danube in BAÏA MARE, Romania in January 2000

- fireworks explosion in ENSCHEDE, Netherlands in May 2000

- AZF explosion in TOULOUSE, France in September 2001.

The framework of this action is now directive 96/82/EC, known as “SEVESO II directive”. This new directive reinforces the notion of major accident prevention, notably by obliging the operator to implement a management system and organisation (or safety management system) matching the risks inherent in the installations. There are approximately 1,200 “SEVESO” facilities in France.

Council Directive 2008/1/CE on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (known as the “IPPC directive”) requires a global approach and relates to the most polluting industrial installations. The integrated pollution control approach consists of preventing emissions into the air, water, soil, waste management and, when impossible, to limit these emissions to a minimum in order to reach a high level of overall environmental protection via the implementation of the best available technologies. There are approximately 7,000 IPPC installations in France and around 55,000 in Europe.