Monitoring and Reporting of Emissions of Airborne Contaminants: O.Reg. 127/01
Facilities in the electricity generation, industrial, municipal and institutional sectors will be required to monitor and report their emissions of airborne contaminants under a new regulation (O.Reg. 127/01) of the Environmental Protection Act. The reports must be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Energy and be made available to the public, either on a Web site or at the facility or company head office. The ministry says that the new regulation will lead to reductions in airborne contaminants, since the public’s right-to-know will be an incentive for companies to reduce their emissions. MOEE also says that the regulation will provide a means of tracking progress in ministry programs for reducing smog, acid rain, air toxics and climate change, and will give MOEE an information base for developing policies in the future.
Under the regulation, facilities meeting certain criteria must report annually on their annual and smog season emissions of a number of contaminants. Facilities with significant emissions of SO2 and NOx must also submit quarterly reports.
Electricity generators and facilities MOEE classifies as “large sources” (such as iron and steel mills, pulp and paper mills and chemical manufacturing facilities) became subject to the requirements of the regulation on May 1, 2001. The first quarterly reports for SO2 and NOx were due by August 29, 2001, and the first annual reports by June 1, 2002. Facilities classified as “small sources” (such as auto body repair shops, dry cleaning services, mines, quarries and many types of manufacturing plants) became subject to the regulation on January 1, 2002, and their first annual reports are due by June 1, 2003.
O.Reg. 127/01 sets out screening criteria for determining what monitoring and reporting each facility must undertake. Details of the program, such as the lists of contaminants, the reporting thresholds and the reporting methods, are set out in a separate guideline, which may change from time to time without requiring amendment of the regulation. The program is rather complicated because the contaminants, 358 in all, are grouped under three separate tables, each listing different contaminants and each with a different set of criteria. (Facilities will monitor and report only on the contaminants that apply to them.)
One of the tables lists the 268 contaminants that Ontario facilities must report on to Environment Canada under the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). Under the new regulation, facilities must now report this same information to the Ministry of Environment and Energy. MOEE also introduced two other tables of contaminants not already covered by the NPRI. One of the tables lists seven smog-related contaminants MOEE calls “criteria air contaminants” and four greenhouse gases. The ministry says it is the first jurisdiction in the world to require monitoring and public reporting of this “full suite of key greenhouse gases and the key contributors to smog and acid rain.” In December 2001, Environment Canada added these same criteria air contaminants to the NPRI, beginning with the 2002 reporting year. A third table lists 79 contaminants — not included in the NPRI — that MOEE refers to as toxics.
MOEE began consulting on the broad concepts of the proposed program in January 2000, but the complex draft regulation and 600+-page guideline were not released until November 2000. The notice on the Environmental Registry provided a 30-day comment period and a planned implementation date of January 1, 2001. This phase of the consultation was rushed, with too little time for review and comment on the proposal and only seven weeks for industry to prepare to meet the new requirements. The ministry received 41 comments on the Registry posting. The comments included a number of significant concerns and almost unanimously requested an extension of the comment period and implementation date. As a result of public and stakeholder comments, MOEE made a few changes to the regulation and guideline and delayed the proposed implementation date by four months.
After the regulation was finalized, the ministry continued to meet with industry groups and held over 40 workshops, and MOEE and Environment Canada began working to integrate their two programs, held joint workshops and set up a telephone help line. MOEE has also established a multi-stakeholder committee to provide advice on improving the program, including future revisions to the substance list and reporting thresholds contained in the guideline. MOEE has made a good effort to assist companies in understanding the requirements, and staff have made efforts to refine the program based on industry input. Nevertheless, the regulation has significant cost and resource implications for industry.
Each facility must submit its reports electronically to the ministry within 60 days after the end of the reporting period, and the reports are concurrently made available to the public. In May 2002, MOEE created a Web site where the public may access the posted reports by searching for a specific facility or for all facilities within a municipality. With an estimated 3,000–4,000 facilities reporting, however, it will not be easy for a member of the public to use the database for regional or provincial-level analysis. The ECO encourages MOEE to provide a summary or analysis of the data to the public, as the ECO has recommended in the past. MOEE will need to prepare such a summary in any case, since the ministry will compile and analyse the data to provide the province-wide information it needs to develop ministry programs and track progress.
Some concern has been raised by industry, regulators and other stakeholders about the quality of the data that will be produced, since any of a number of estimation or measurement methods may be used. In response to those concerns, MOEE says that the data will be of sufficient accuracy to meet Ontario’s objectives without being unduly burdensome on industry, and that direct measurement is not necessary since many common estimation methods provide reliable data. MOEE also says that facilities are responsible for the quality and accuracy of their data. However, MOEE says it will occasionally review the estimation techniques and audit air emissions data. The ministry will need to rely on the data to regulate industry, set emission caps, oversee emissions trading and discuss emission reduction agreements with other jurisdictions. The ECO encourages the ministry to review and audit facility reports and records periodically in order to verify the data, assess compliance with the regulation, and evaluate whether the data being generated are comparable, reliable and sufficient for the ministry’s stated purposes.
The ECO agrees with MOEE that creation of an information base and a means of tracking progress in ministry air programs is an important step toward improving air quality. The ministry has goals to reduce emissions under its Anti-Smog Action Plan and other programs and to help the province meet Canada’s emission-reduction commitments under the Ozone Annex with the U.S. But until now MOEE has had no inventory or measurement of actual emissions and no reliable means to measure progress. The ECO has expressed concern in the past that MOEE’s progress reports on the Anti-Smog Action Plan did not clearly quantify actual smog reduction achievements and compare them to stated targets. This new regulation will provide an information base to track emission trends and develop new programs if these are needed to achieve emission reductions. However, the ministry will have to compile and analyze the data to verify whether real emission reductions are being achieved.
With this regulation, MOEE has attempted to balance several competing policy goals — answering the need for high quality data while minimizing the regulatory burden on industry. The ministry has indicated it will consider refining the program. The ECO urges the ministry to ensure there is broad public consultation, including notice on the Environmental Registry, on any major reforms to the guideline that might be suggested by the multi-stakeholder committee. Depending on how MOEE employs the information, this monitoring and reporting program could lead to environmental benefits. The ECO commends MOEE for developing the program.
The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Environment and Energy provide analysis of the reported emissions of airborne contaminants and any tracking of emission reduction programs in an annual summary report to the public.
|This is an article from the 2001/02 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.|
Citing This Article
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2002. "Monitoring and Reporting of Emissions of Airborne Contaminants." Developing Sustainability, ECO Annual Report, 2001-02. Toronto, ON : Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 91-94.