The ministry considered all comments received during the comment period in response to the posting. The following sets out the particular concerns that were raised and how the ministry considered them in the development of the final amendments.
Updated Air Standards
The majority of comments received by the ministry were related to the science-basis used and implementation of the proposed updated sulphur dioxide air standards. For a detailed discussion of the comments and ministry responses, please see the Ontario Air Standards for Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) Decision Document, by following the link included in this notice. In addition, the ministry received oral and written comments prior to the public consultation period, and during earlier stakeholder engagement meetings; please refer to Appendix A of the Decision Document, where they have been summarized and addressed.
Many comments indicated overall support for updating the standards. The ministry’s process for updating the sulphur dioxide standards is consistent with how other new and updated standards have been set under the regulation.
Some comments suggested that the air standard should be set at the same value as the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard (CAAQS) for sulphur dioxide. The CAAQS is a target for regional air quality based on consideration both of science and achievability and is not intended as a tool for assessment of a regulated facility. The Ontario regulatory framework relies on air dispersion modelling to assess compliance by identifying the maximum concentration of a contaminant that may result at any location near a regulated facility.
Some comments express concerns about setting air standards that may not be technically or economically achievable and that the technology-based compliance approaches available under the regulation create significant communication challenges for regulated facilities. Ontario’s air standards are set at levels protective of human health without regard for achievability. Concerns about achievability issues are addressed through technology-based compliance approaches (site-specific or sector-based technical standards) available under the regulation. These compliance approaches focus on achieving continuous improvement through actions an individual facility can take to reduce emissions to air as much as possible, considering the technology that is available and best operational practices. Economic factors may also be considered. The ministry will continue to work with regulated facilities, local public health and others on enhancing communication regarding the various compliance approaches available under the regulation.
Upper Risk Thresholds (URTs)
The regulated community commented that the URT should be set at 10 times the value of the updated sulphur dioxide standard, consistent with other URTs that the ministry has previously set, and that its implementation should coincide with the updated air standard (i.e. 5-year phase-in).
Generally, for substances with non-carcinogenic effects like sulphur dioxide, the URT is set 10-fold higher than the standard. However, the setting of a URT may also include consideration of other effects that may be of concern at higher exposure levels. Such information was considered in setting the URT for SO2. Specifically, since the current 1974 air standard for sulphur dioxide is representative of a concentration which is protective against adverse health effects on the general population but not sensitive populations, the URT is proposed to be set at the level of the existing 1974 sulphur dioxide air standards.
Generally, URTs under O. Reg. 419/05 are not phased in. However, in order to align with the amendments to clarify TOC, we decided to phase in the URT on January 1, 2019. This effective date will align with annual ESDM reporting deadline for 2018 calendar year.
Regional Application of Air Standards
The ministry sought input on whether to apply the updated air standards in Southern Ontario only, and have the current air standard apply to Northern Ontario or part thereof. After consideration of the comments received, the ministry will implement the updated sulphur dioxide air standards Ontario-wide, consistent with how other new or updated standards have been implemented since the introduction of O. Reg. 419/05.
The regulatory framework already addresses technical and economic challenges in meeting air standards (through the site-specific or technical standards compliance options). Implementing the updated sulphur dioxide air standards Ontario-wide is scientifically-supportable, supports health equity in the province, and is consistent with the continuous improvement goals of the CAAQS.
Furthermore, applying different standards to Northern and Southern Ontario may create intra-sector competitiveness issues, with different facilities within the same sector faced with different regulatory thresholds.
Lambton Industrial Meteorological Alerts (LIMA)
Ontario Regulation 350: Lambton Industrial Meteorological Alerts (O. Reg. 350: LIMA) was introduced in 1981 to provide increased monitoring and air quality protection for residents in the Sarnia and Corunna communities. If concentrations exceed a certain limit, the Sarnia Lambton Environmental Association will notify the ministry of the initiation of an alert, and advise local area industries of the alert so that they can take action to reduce their sulphur dioxide emissions. As a result of decreasing sulphur dioxide levels in the Sarnia area, a LIMA alert has not been triggered since 2008.
As part of the consultation process, the Ministry sought input on amending the Lambton Industry Meteorological Alert Regulation. The ministry has determined that additional policy analysis and further consultation is required before a decision is made on the future of LIMA and will provide an update at a later time.
Transitional Operating Conditions
Comments were received indicating overall support for the ministry’s proposal along with suggestions for enhanced public notification on releases during transitional operating conditions, and adoption of reporting rules implemented in other jurisdictions. As well, recommendations were received in support of increased public awareness and education related to the application of O. Reg. 419/05. To address these suggestions the ministry may consider measures outside regulatory amendments including reviewing and updating internal procedures and public-facing processes and documentation, as appropriate.
The ministry received comments expressing concerns with the inclusion of start-up and shutdown operating scenarios in the default compliance assessment for all facilities and contaminants given lack of standardized methodology to estimate emissions, and the cost of assessing such scenarios especially if they occur rarely (e.g., once every ten years). Some comments suggested that start-up and shutdown emissions should be addressed through the environmental compliance approval review process. The assessment of start-up and shutdown is required to ensure that emissions during these operating conditions are appropriately managed. To assess start-up and shutdown emissions, facilities can use a range of emission estimation techniques including emission factors (where available), material balance calculations, or engineering calculations. In accordance with the regulation, if a facility cannot meet the air standard based on start-up/shutdown scenario that occurs rarely, it has the option to refine the modelling and reflect actual operations and emissions that occurred during the previous calendar year.
Comments were received indicating that wording of the proposed acid gas flaring provision lacked clarity and overestimated the amount of acid gas that petroleum refineries can generate and convey to flaring equipment. In addition, comments stated that modelling hypothetical releases during acid gas flaring does not account for facility performance and operational practices aimed at reducing flaring incidents. We revised the wording included in regulatory amendments to capture a realistic maximum operating scenario related to acid gas flaring. Under the main compliance approach within the framework of O. Reg. 419/05, when facilities demonstrate they can meet the air standard, no additional requirements related to operational performance are imposed. Petroleum refineries are expected to meet the air standard when acid gas flaring, and if a facility cannot meet the air standard, it may request an alternative compliance approach.
The ministry received comments recommending that the proposed amendments not proceed due to concerns that they narrow the scope of the current regulation and reduce the ability to protect public safety. In addition, it was suggested that a multi-agency approach be developed for implementing process safety management at industrial facilities in Ontario. The amendments clarify the scope and reflect how the regulation needs to be applied given that current wording in the regulation and supplementary guidance are not compatible and have been inconsistently interpreted and applied. The amendments require that all facilities assess emissions during normal operations, start-up and shutdown. The ministry can also require assessment of additional operating scenarios (including spills and malfunctions) on a case-by-case basis by way of Director notices or incident modelling order. While requirements included in O. Reg. 419/05 are aimed at ensuring that facility emissions meet standards set at levels protective of human health, this approach is not an appropriate framework to address all process safety issues. The ministry takes recommendations on process safety management under advisement and may consider measures outside O. Reg. 419/05 to address this issue.
Comments were received recommending that grounds for a Director notice be changed (either broadened or scoped down) and include input from local communities on releases during transitional operating conditions. The criteria or grounds related to the new Director notices have been established similar to the existing notices in the regulation. These notices can be issued in a preventative manner and the Director can use various types of information including information from the public to support a decision to issue a notice. In response to comments, the ministry broadened the scope of the Director notice to capture a wider range of operating scenarios.
Sulphur Dioxide Air Standards
Depending on the industrial sector, regulated facilities comply with requirements of the local air quality regulation under either section 19 (Schedule 2 air standards) or section 20 (Schedule 3 air standards). As of February 1, 2020, Schedule 2 standards will be phased out and all regulated facilities will need to comply with section 20 requirements.
Dispersion modelling, as referenced in the Regulation, is used to relate emission rates from a source to resulting point of impingement concentrations of a particular contaminant.
O. Reg. 419/05 details, among other things, modelling requirements for approved dispersion models, ESDM report requirements, notification requirements, phase-in timelines and general prohibitions against exceeding the standards listed in the schedules to the Regulation. For more information, see the ministry website on Rules on Air Quality and Pollution (see link included in this notice).
In addition, updated sulphur dioxide Ambient Air Quality Criteria (AAQCs) will be added to the document “Ontario’s Ambient Air Quality Criteria”, which can be found on the ministry’s website. AAQCs are for assessment purposes and should not be confused with guideline values or standards under O. Reg. 419/05. AAQCs are most commonly used in environmental assessments, special studies using ambient air monitoring data, and the assessments of general air quality in a community. AAQCs are the basis from which air standards have been derived. See the Decision Document for details (see link included in this notice).
Transitional Operating Conditions
Facilities should apply the wording in the amended O. Reg. 419/05 to assess emissions from operating conditions. Chapter 8.3 of Guideline A10: Procedure for Preparing an Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling (ESDM) Report is revoked.
Additional guidance to support the regulatory amendments may be developed as needed. For more information, see the ministry website on Rules on Air Quality and Pollution (see link included in this notice).