All comments received during the comment period, whether by email, regular mail, or the Environmental Registry website were considered as part of the decision making process by the ministry. Seven (7) comments were received from Industry, Industry Associations, Public Health, Air Practitioners and Environmental Non- Government Organizations (ENGOs).
The following are highlights of some of the key comments and how they were considered by the ministry in finalizing the decision.
Public Health continues to support the parts of the regulation [O. Reg. 419/05] which aim to reduce exposure to substances in the air that can affect human health, the use of a framework to manage risk, participation of local stakeholders, and the requirement for facilities to assess potential receptors (such as health care facilities, child care facilities, dwellings, etc.) in addition to the maximum point of impingement (POI). They also support the mandate of continuous improvement under the regulation.
Comments from public health also stressed the importance that local public health units be informed when exceedences of air standards are identified.
ENGOs suggested that even though the ministry requests this additional information (as per above), the documents should be clear that these are still violations of regulation. Clarify a misleading statement that suggests exceedences of a URT are not prohibited. Also recommended removing proposed wording that suggests the purpose of the Regulation is to promote industry competiveness and production (see also EBR 012-4167).
Other stakeholders suggested that the term “exposure”, which is used numerous places, should not be used in relation to limiting or reducing emissions to air under O.Reg. 419/05 since this regulation only deals with emissions from specific facilities and does not specifically regulate other sources that contribute to background levels.
The ministry appreciates and values the input and continuing involvement from Ontario Public Health groups and ENGOs with this regulation.
A protocol has been in place since 2006 which encourages communication with public health units whenever an air standard or Upper Risk Threshold is exceeded and the ministry is notified. The ministry may consider how to enhance communication with public health units and all public health units should be encouraged to express interest with their local ministry offices to ensure this communication process is ongoing. In addition, the regulation already requires proponents to notify the local medical officer of health when public meetings related to a site-specific standard are organized.
Additional clarification about when the ministry must be notified of an exceedence of a standard (or guideline) or Upper Risk Threshold has been included in Chapters 9 and 13 of Guideline A10. This includes a discussion of when a facility is in non-compliance (non-conformance). For additional ministry responses to other ENGO comments, please also see the decision for EBR 012-4167 (Guideline A10: Procedure for Preparing and Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling Report).
The guidance documents have also been updated where appropriate to address other suggestions including use of the term “exposure”.
Air Standards and guidelines
Public Health requested clarification on how air quality guideline values (available in the Summary of Standards of Guidelines: PIBS # 6569e01) are used in the process, particularly when a standard does not exist. For the short-term standards (mentioned in Chapter 3.4), they encourage development of short-term standard that review the science relevant to short-term exposures during higher emissions scenarios.
ENGOs recommended that the guidance clarify that not all current air standards are based solely on science, and that the ministry act swiftly to update those that are not.
Standards are legally enforceable limits under the regulation while guidelines are values that are used to inform decisions by a director under the regulation. Both standards and guidelines are used to assess the contributions of a contaminant to air by a regulated facility and can trigger abatement but only standards can trigger other compliance approaches such as requesting a site-specific standard or the development of a technical standard. However, contaminants with guidelines values may also be considered in a technical standard.
There are many more compounds that meet the definition of a contaminant under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act than there are contaminants with ministry standards or guideline values. Persons preparing an Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling (ESDM) report are accountable for the assessment of all contaminants that are discharged from the facility regardless of whether or not the ministry has a standard or guideline value available. More information regarding assessment of contaminants with no standard or guideline can be found in Chapter 12.2 of the Guideline A10: Procedure for Preparing and Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling Report.
The ministry’s air standards are based on scientific information but older standards may not reflect current information or approaches. Since the introduction of the regulation the ministry has worked to develop new/updated air standards for 68 contaminants and continues to review science on additional contaminants. For example, the ministry is currently working on updated air standards for sulphur dioxide.
Most of the standards are set to be protective in continuous long-term exposure. However, some standards may be set to be protective in short term exposures (depending on the contaminant and the effect). These short-term standards may be set in addition to or instead of the long-term standards.
Site-specific standards process
Requested the ministry provide clarity on how other locations may be included as receptors for exposure assessment, and how public health units can be involved in identifying these locations.
Requested clarification on the rationale for notification of property owners within 500 metres from the facility requesting a site-specific standard.
ENGOs requested that the documents retain the language that constrains the decision to issue site-specific standards with longer expiry dates (up to 10-year) to extenuating circumstances.
As part of the consultation process associated with site-specific standards, a facility requesting a site-specific standard is required to host a public meeting and notify certain stakeholders of the process (see Chapter 2.6 Stakeholder Involvement). Stakeholders to be notified include the local medical officer of health, the public health unit, municipalities and any property owner where an exceedence of the standard is predicted by the approved model. The community meeting is a good opportunity to suggest additional locations that should be assessed for frequency of exceedences. This suggestion has been included in the guidance document.
The distance of 500 metres is mentioned in the regulation in the context of requirements to notify certain parties of public meetings related to requests for site-specific standard. Every property owner that adjoins or is within 500 metres of a facility’s property who is requesting a site-specific standard must be notified of the public meeting. In addition, municipalities that are also within 500 metres of the facility’s property must also be notified of the public meeting.
The 500 metres was part of the original consultation on the regulation and it seemed an appropriate distance for people to be notified of the public meeting for a site-specific standard. However, the area of assessment (the modelling domain) for a site-specific standard request could expand beyond this distance since facilities are required to capture all potential exceedences of a standard (or guideline) in their ESDM report. Any facility’s property that is affected by an exceedence of the air standard must also be notified of the public meeting (this could go beyond the 500 metres) as part of the site-specific standards process.
The previous language that constrained the issuance of a site-specific standard for a period of up to 10 years due to extenuating circumstances has updated to reflect 2011 amendments to the regulation. For more information on these amendments, please see EBR 011-3088.
Cost Considerations in the standards process
Public health recommends that, where possible, economic considerations for different technical options (Chapter 2.5) also consider health costs and impact on vulnerable populations.
The focus with technology-based standards is to reduce risks with consideration of best available technologies and cost. The ministry also considers available information about potential exposures resulting from regulated facilities under the framework for managing risk. Regulatory proposals consider health costs and benefits where possible and applicable. However, information to quantify health costs and benefits is generally unavailable for the large number of air toxics that are regulated under the local air quality regulation.
The ministry is currently working with the Air Standards/Local Air Quality External Working Group where issues related to environmental justice have been raised. Any recommendations from this group will be considered by the ministry in how we move forward on this important issue.
ENGOs recommend removing proposed language in the Guideline for Implementing Air Standards in Ontario and the Guide to Requesting a Site-Specific Standard that permits consideration of cost effectiveness as part of the economic feasibility analyses.
In 2009, the ministry hired a consultant to develop a methodology to determine how to assess cost-effectiveness in the context of site-specific standards. The approach considered standard costing methods referenced in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS): OAQPS’ EPA Air Pollution Control Cost Manual (Sixth Edition), EPA/452/B-02-001.
The ministry hosted stakeholder sessions which were attended by industry, public health, consultants, and others to discuss the approach. A methodology to evaluate cost-effectiveness using a combination of costs and potential POI reductions was developed. This methodology has been available on the ministry website for years and has now been referenced in these updated guidance documents.
The ministry does consider the potential exposures and risks around a facility when a site-specific and technical standard are developed/reviewed. In some cases, with high risk levels, cost effectiveness is not appropriate.