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.