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Environmental Compliance Approvals – Details

Emissions from man-made or related activities are not allowed in Ontario under the EPA (with certain exemptions, such as agricultural activities) unless accompanied by an Environmental Compliance Approval, which is prescribed under Section 9 of the EPA. Environmental Compliance Approvals, or ECAs, replaced Certificates of Approval (CofAs) at the end of 2011.

The EPA states:

9.(1) No person shall, except under and in accordance with an environmental compliance approval,

(a) use, operate, construct, alter, extend or replace any plant, structure, equipment, apparatus, mechanism or thing that may discharge or from which may be discharged a contaminant into any part of the natural environment other than water;

or

(b) alter a process or rate of production with the result that a contaminant may be discharged into any part of the natural environment other than water or the rate or manner of discharge of a contaminant into any part of the natural environment other than water may be altered. R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19, s. 9 (1); 2010, c. 16, Sched. 7, s. 2 (4).

The application for an ECA is governed by Ontario Regulation 419/05, promulgated under the EPA. The basis of the application is to provide an impact assessment that demonstrates that there are no emissions from a source in excess of that prescribed by the regulation. Guidance documentation related to O. Reg. 419/05 describes the use of emission measurements or estimates that can be used as inputs into an air dispersion model; the results of which provide airborne concentrations at points of impingement (POI) normally at or beyond the property boundary of a facility, or at specified sensitive receptors. The resulting POI values are compared against MOECC standards to test for compliance.

O. Reg. 419/05 requires the use of new air impact assessment models. The new models tend to predict higher impacts than the older models used under the CofA process. Moreover, air quality standards have been made more stringent. Together, these changes may cause facilities that were previously in compliance to fall out of compliance. The new regulation requires facilities to be in compliance with the new standards and models by certain phase-in dates. For facilities such as those involved in metal ore mining, petroleum refineries and iron and steel mills and foundries, the date was 2010. Therefore, the need to review now is especially critical. For facilities such as pulp and paper mills, chemical manufacturing, and fabricated metal product manufacturing, the phase-in date was 2013. For all other types of facilities, the phase in date is 2020.

Each facility is required to keep their ECA up-to-date with any modifications in the facility or process that may affect air emissions. The MOECC does offer ECAs with Limited Operational Flexibility (LOF) that allows a facility to make changes to operations without prior approval from the MOECC. These changes, however, must be assessed prior to implementation to ensure that the facility will stay compliant with all MOECC standards. The assessment must be kept onsite and the MOECC must be notified, on an annual basis, of any changes made to the facility.

Under certain conditions, O. Reg. 419/05 also allows for a person to register for a technical standard in respect of a facility for certain contaminants. Registering for and complying with a technical standard is an alternative to complying with the air standards that are based on contaminant concentrations (i.e., an ECA). These technical standards may take the form of an industry-wide standard, an equipment standard or a combination of industry-wide standard and equipment standard. These standards typically require facilities to comply with enhanced record keeping, restrictions on operating conditions, requirements on air pollution control equipment or ventilation requirements, as well as a myriad of other requirements all set and designed to minimize emissions. Currently, industry standards exist for the following industries:

  • Foundries
  • Forest Products
  • Pulp and Paper
  • Metal Finishers
  • Petroleum Refining
  • Petrochemical