The purpose of this proposed regulation is to:
- Use nutrients derived from crop production by-products safely
- Encourage an increase in the amount of manure treated by anaerobic digestion before land application
- Improve soil health by returning organic matter to crop lands, and
- Augment the production of green energy from on-farm anaerobic digesters and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
To improve the regulatory framework for on-farm anaerobic digestion facilities, the MOE initially considered anaerobic digestion as a potential candidate for the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) as part of its risk-based environmental approvals program. The EASR allows businesses to register prescribed activities in the EASR instead of seeking an ECA or REA through the normal application and review process, as applicable. The Ministry previously posted technical discussion papers for public consultation outlining the proposed eligibility and operating requirements in respect of small-scale renewable energy projects, including anaerobic digestion facilities (EBR Number: 011-4926, Consultation Period: January 11, 2012 – February 25, 2012). These requirements were designed to mitigate potential impacts to the environment through facility design, siting restrictions and operational requirements.
As a result of comments received with respect to the technical discussion papers, as well as discussions held with interested stakeholders, MOE and OMAF have decided to move forward with an alternative to an EASR for on-farm anaerobic digestion. If an EASR were to be developed for on-farm anaerobic digestion, it would lead to an overlap of requirements that are found in both the NMA and EPA. This would be difficult for stakeholders because there would be different requirements and regulations for facilities depending on the volume of off-farm materials, which is not always consistent.
Instead, MOE and OMAF are proposing to amend O. Reg. 267/03 under the NMA to achieve the policy goal of the original EASR proposal.
A draft regulation is attached to this posting that sets out the proposed amendments to O. Reg. 267/03 under the NMA to modify the requirements related to Regulated Mixed Anaerobic Digestion Facilities (RMADFs). The proposed amendments seek to provide greater operational flexibility while strengthening design and operational requirements to protect the environment.
To enhance operational flexibility, it is proposed that the allowable proportion of off-farm material treated by RMADFs increase from 25% to 50% while maintaining the annual limit of 10,000 m3 and a daily limit of 200 m3 for these materials. All RMADFs would continue to be required to have nutrient management strategies approved under the NMA. Where an approved strategy contemplates the use of 25% or less off-farm anaerobic digestion materials, an approved amendment would be required to treat more than 25%. Other amendments are proposed to reduce barriers to receiving on-farm materials, such as manure, from neighbouring farms as well as minor changes to the schedules of off-farm materials intended to clarify materials that can be treated. The proposal allows the further treatment of Schedule 2 materials to take place off-site. It would also permit the receipt of off-farm materials with higher levels of zinc and copper (consistent with Compost A compost) subject to certain rules including sampling and analysis obligations.
A number of amendments are also proposed to ensure facilities are appropriately designed and managed to protect the environment:
To minimize the potential for spills, it is proposed that sampling ports have primary and secondary valves and that they be installed using specifically designed gasketed fittings to ensure all materials used in the ports are compatible with the pipe material. This new requirement would apply to all RMADF, new and existing. Engineers would also be required to design the facility to minimize leakage and corrosion.
To increase awareness of RMADFs and promote direct dialogue with neighbours, it is proposed that all facilities have signage readable from the road that indicates contact information of the operator.
To minimize the potential for odour impacts, the following amendments are proposed:
- Increase minimum retention time from 20 days to 35 days, with a provision that would allow operators to have a shorter retention time if the facility can reduce total volatile solids by 50% in less than 35 days.
- Apply minimum setback distances to odour receptors such as neighbouring residences.
- Establish design permeability standard for gas storage covers.
- Require that facilities that have a gas production rate greater than 50 m3/hr have a secondary combustion system on-site (typically facilities that treat more than 25 percent off-farm materials have a gas production rate greater than 50 m3/hr).
- Require operators to have a device that monitors if the pressure relief valve is open.
To minimize the potential for noise impacts, it is proposed that design engineers be required to consider how to design the facility to minimize noise. Receipt of off-farm materials will also be restricted to the hours of 7 am to 7 pm to mitigate noise concerns arising from deliveries/unloading.
All existing facilities would be transitioned with respect to the setback requirements.
Existing facilities that treat less than or equal to 25 percent off-farm materials would be transitioned with respect to the following requirements:
Existing facilities would have until July 1, 2016 to meet the following requirements:
Only new and replacement gas storage covers would have to meet the proposed design permeability standard.
Currently, facilities that treat more than 25 percent off-farm materials are required to obtain either a REA or an ECA from MOE. The proposal combines some of the requirements from the current MOE approval requirements with the RMADF regulatory approval stream, creating a more streamlined approvals process while managing environmental protection.
In addition to the proposed changes for anaerobic digesters, the draft regulation includes proposals to amend minor housekeeping issues in other sections of O. Reg. 267/03. Housekeeping amendments include correcting French translation and correcting section references.