Now that Ontario has phased-out coal for electricity generation, the province wants to simplify the environmental approval process for industry, as it explores green alternatives to the carbon-intensive black rock.
Coal use among industry now accounts for 11 per cent of Ontario’s greenhouse emissions, says the Ministry of the Environment, but in order for companies to use coal alternatives such as biomass, which can be as simple as corn, the company must be designated as a waste disposal site, triggering obligations under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act and requiring Environmental Compliance Approval.
As of April 17, 2014, the Ministry loaded a proposal to the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Registry to change the current Ontario framework for low-carbon fuel use. The proposal moves the practice under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act, which would still demand compliance approvals for air and wastewater, but would remove the waste disposal site designation and its obligations.
“[…] They would have more flexibility to assess different fuels at their operations before applying for approval to use them on a long-term basis,” states the EBR Registry. “Being able to assess various fuels on a short-term basis will help companies determine the best process for their individual operation […].”
Currently, Ontario facilities that use 100 tonnes or less per day of alternative low-carbon fuel or use it for less than 12 months are considered demonstration projects.
Manufacturing is now the main coal user in Ontario industries such as the cement, lime, iron and steel sectors.
The Ministry’s proposed framework would require alternative low-carbon fuels to be composed of or derived from materials such as:
- non-recyclable and non-hazardous residual wastes
- non-recyclable industrial, commercial or institutional residues/waste such as unsaleable finished goods
- non-recyclable wastes generated by construction and demolition activities
- biomass such as agricultural by-products or residues.