Read our full submission here.
Ontario Regulation 419/05 [Regulation 419] was promulgated under Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act in 2005 to set air pollution limits for polluting facilities. To protect against health and environmental effects, the regulation sets limits on the emission of potentially harmful contaminants, including toluene, phosphoric acid, lead, mercury, lithium, and trichloroethylene.
If a facility cannot meet the standard set in Regulation 419 within the stated time-frame, it must apply to the MInistry of the Environment [the Ministry] for a site-specific, and potentially contaminant-specific, exemption to the law. When the Ministry receives a request to create a site-specific alteration to a standard, it decides whether to issue the exemption on the basis of technical or economic information provided by the company, including: an Emissions Summary and Dispersion Modeling (ESDM) report; a Technology Benchmarking Report; an Economic Feasibility Analysis (optional); a summary of pre-consultation with local stakeholders; and an action plan to implement and monitor progress.
In 2009, the Ministry introduced a second option for companies that do not comply with Regulation 419 emissions standards: comply with technical standards for a specific sector, such as metal mining or forestry. These changes weakened a strong law, exposing communities close to certain industrial sites to higher air pollution emissions than elsewhere in the province.
Now the Ministry has proposed changes to further weaken the environmental protection provided in Regulation 419 by reducing ministerial oversight and public participation. These proposed changes have been introduced on the basis of meetings between government and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, an industry and trade association. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper was not invited to attend those meetings, nor does there appear to have been consultation beyond this industry group.
The Proposed Changes
The Ministry has proposed three changes to Regulation 419 based on industry requests:
Change the language in the regulation from “altered standards” to “site specific standards”. The regulation currently refers to “site-specific altered standards”, so the proposed change is to remove the reference to “altered standards”.
Extend the duration of altered standards. Currently, altered standards can apply for five years. That period can only be extended to ten years if the Director determines that there are extenuating circumstances. The proposed changes would make the altered standards last for a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten years, removing any reference to “extenuating circumstances”.
Remove the requirement for a public meeting when altered standards approvals are renewed. Under the current regulation, when a facility wants to exceed the established standards under an altered standard, a public meeting must be held to ensure that community members who may be affected by the altered standard are given the information they need and the opportunity to be heard. The proposed changes would remove the requirement for a public meeting for facilities seeking renewal of an altered standard approval.