On April 7, 2009 Bill 167, the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 was introduced for first reading. If passed by the legislature, the Bill would help prevent pollution and protect human health and the environment by reducing the use and creation of toxic substances, and inform Ontarians about toxic substances.
The Bill would apply to all Ontario facilities where a toxic substance appearing on a prescribed list of substances is used or created, the amount of the prescribed toxic substance used or created exceeds a specified threshold, more than a prescribed minimum number of persons is employed, and the facility belongs to a prescribed sector. If the Bill is passed and regulations are made, they would provide detail on these amounts, numbers and thresholds.
The Bill would require facilities that are subject to the Bill to:
- track and quantify the toxic substances used and created at the facility;
- prepare a toxic substance reduction plan (plan) for each toxic substance used or created at the facility and have the plan certified both by the highest ranking employee at the facility with management responsibilities and by a proposed toxics reduction planner;
- prepare summaries of their plans and make them available to the public in accordance with regulations;
- report to the Ministry of the Environment (Ministry) on their progress in reducing toxic substances and make certain information available to the public in accordance with regulations; and,
- report to the Ministry on any substances of concern used or created at the facility (likely to be a one-time information gathering exercise).
Substances of concern would include substances that are of concern to human health or the environment, for which there is limited information regarding their use or release in Ontario. These substances are not currently tracked through the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and would be designated in regulations.
The Bill describes the minimum components of the plan, plan summary, report and reports on substances of concern and includes regulation-making authority to detail additional components. The implementation of toxic substance reduction plans would be voluntary.
In order to inform Ontarians, the plan summary and certain information contained in the report would be made available to the public. Regulations made under the Bill would detail which components of the report would be made available to the public. It is important to note that any regulations made under this Bill would be informed by consultation with stakeholders and the public.
The Ministry is conscious of the fact that some industries are already undertaking pollution prevention and other toxic reduction actions either voluntarily or as a result of another initiative. To mitigate any undue duplication, the Bill includes a provision that allows existing plans and pollution prevention work prepared for another purpose to be used to support the new provincial requirements.
The Bill also includes provisions to require the Minister of the Environment (Minister) to consult with experts and the public about possible changes (eg. additions, subtractions) to the lists of toxic substances and substances of concern. Further, the Bill also includes information-sharing provisions to allow for the exchange of information between Ontario and the Federal Government.
To ensure compliance, the Bill includes standard compliance and enforcement provisions including inspection powers for provincial officers, orders, administrative penalties and offences that are similar to those found in existing environmental protection legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, the Ontario Water Resources Act, and others.
The Bill also includes various amendments to other Acts. Some of these amendments are complementary to the provisions of the Bill. Other amendments make housekeeping changes to add relevant statutory references and to adjust French terminology.
Finally, the Bill gives the authority to the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to ban or restrict the manufacture, distribution or sale of a toxic substance, a substance of concern or product known to contain those substances and require manufacturers, distributors, and/or sellers of those substances or products to publicly report on those substances.
As the first course of action, Ontario would continue to work with the federal government to promote the use of existing federal powers to deal with toxics in consumer products that may be harmful to Ontarians. These new authorities would position the Ministry to take action to protect Ontarians, if necessary. However, as mentioned above, consultation with stakeholders and the public would take place prior to the development of any regulation under these new authorities.
The Bill reflects the approach consulted on in the Discussion Paper, “Creating Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Strategy” (August, 2008), and builds on input received from stakeholders, the Toxics Reduction Scientific Expert Panel, and the public through consultations.
The purpose of the Bill is to prevent pollution and protect human health and the environment by reducing the use and creation of toxic substances, and to inform Ontarians about toxic substances.
In addition to new legislation, the Ministry of the Environment is proposing a broader Toxics Reduction Strategy that would include the following components:
Support to Industry and a Green Economy:
Provide compliance assistance, technical assistance and financial incentives to encourage toxics reduction, with a focus on small businesses, and position Ontario for the new green economy.
Train and accredit toxics reduction planners. If passed, regulations made under the proposed legislation would provide detail on these planners.
- Increased public transparency by providing the public with access to place-based information on facilities’ use of toxics and progress in achieving toxics reductions.
- Public awareness activities to support increased toxics literacy and to provide Ontarians with the necessary knowledge to make informed choices and support a domestic market shift to greener products.
This proposal was posted for a 30 day public review and comment period starting April 07, 2009. Comments were to be received by May 07, 2009.
All comments received during the comment period are being considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry.
Please Note: All comments and submissions received have become part of the public record.
From August 27, 2008 to October, 11 2008, a Discussion Paper, “Creating Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Strategy” was posted on the Environmental Registry (Registry Number: 010-4374) to begin to consult on some components of the proposed Strategy. Elements of the proposed Strategy were outlined in the Discussion Paper.
During the Discussion Paper consultation period, one hundred and twenty-eight (128) submissions were received. As a result the Ministry received a total of one hundred and forty-five (145) comments. Five (5) multi-stakeholder consultations were held in Toronto, Sarnia, Sault Ste Marie, Hamilton and Ottawa, involving one hundred and thirty-seven (137) stakeholders including representatives from industry, industry associations, environmental non-governmental organizations, health non-governmental organizations, labour organizations and municipalities. In addition, one-on-one sessions were held with over fifteen (15) organizations spanning an equally broad range of interests.
Information sessions with First Nations took place in Thunder Bay and Sarnia in October 2008. First Nations expressed support for the proposed Strategy, particularly the provisions that would increase public disclosure of industry activities.
The Minister of the Environment established a Toxics Reduction Scientific Expert Panel to provide advice on the development of the proposed Toxics Reduction Strategy in general and in particular the prioritization of toxics under the Strategy.
The Ministry will continue to work with stakeholders and the public to develop regulations and all interested parties will have an opportunity to provide comments.