When Premier McGuintyʼs government ﬁrst introduced new air quality regulations in 2005, the province described them as “the cornerstone” of the governmentʼs efforts to protect local air quality. This week, the McGuinty government appears poised to undo many of the rules that protect Ontarians from industrial air pollution.
On Tuesday, September 8, 2009, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper ﬁled a written objection to the Ministry of the Environmentʼs proposed rollbacks. The new regulations could exempt entire industries that cannot comply with Ontarioʼs environmental rules, replacing air quality targets with technology requirements. Compliance would be linked to the technology that is used rather than the quality of the air. The new rules could apply to industries such as forestry, foundries and metal mining.
“It is outrageous. The new systems penalizes good corporate citizens and rewards polluters,” says Mark Mattson, President and Waterkeeper with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has voiced a number of concerns:
- The new system changes the rules for entire industries, without local consultation or scrutiny
- The systemwide rollbacks may not be able to consider the unique needs and concerns of different communities
- By focusing on the technology used rather than the quality of the air, the new rules lose focus on the ultimate goal: clean air
The Ministry of the Environment cites reducing “regulatory burden” as one of the main beneﬁts of the rollbacks.
“Concerns that regulation has become a burden on the Ministry of the Environment are besides the point,” says Mattson. “It is a burden to live with smog days, lung disease, or asthma. It is a burden to rely on contaminated ﬁsh and water for our survival. Environmental protection is not a burden: it is a duty.”
Bad Harvest - the troubled Great Lakes fishery
Listen to Living at the Barricades.
As environmental advocates, we encourage people to get to know Lake Ontario. But some parts of the lake are so polluted that touching the water or eating the fish that lived there can be a health risk. We do not want to overemphasize the risk, because it scares people away. And where communities are afraid of the lake, the lake suffers. But we also don’t want to hide the risks. It’s important to protect public health. And it’s crucial to talk about the places we want to restore and to point fingers at the people who took away swimmability or fishability in the first place. So what’s an environmentalist to do? That’s the focus of this week’s episode of Living at the Barricades.
Music on this week's show: