Jack Donnan, team leader of the Economic Analysis Section of the Ministry of Energy provided an insightful presentation today at Metro Hall in Toronto.
Traditionally, more ministry time is spent evaluating ambient air, water and oil contaminant concentrations than evaluating actual consequences of specific programs and policies after they’ve been implemented. Speaking about his 20 years of experience examining environmental protection programs and policies, Mr. Donnan provided a candid overview of some of the challenges of determining cost-effective plans.
Mr. Donnan presented the results of a retroactive evaluation of Ontario’s Countdown Acid Rain program to illustrate the usefulness and benefits of such assessments. Four firms participated in this program — Inco, Falconbridge, Ontario Hydro and Algoma Steel each to different extents. Ontario Hydro had the biggest challenge and spent the largest amount in retrofitting and reductions (including $982.6-million on low sulphur coal). Even so, the ministry discovered that it actually over-estimated how much it would cost Algoma Steel and Ontario Hydro to meet their sulphur reduction targets.
While millions were spent in new pollution controls, efficiencies positively impacted the financial bottom lines of the companies involved for the most part, and sulphate levels in soil and lakes eventually declined. (However, Mr. Donnan points out that, contrary to many mainstream media reports, the benefits to vegetation and maple syrup quality was not significant.)
Mr. Donnan highlighted the pros and cons of conducting retrospective assessments and some recent challenges to current environmental management and regulation paradigms.
Eager to debunk the myth that environmental protection measures increase costs and adversely effect the economy, Mr. Donnan believes they result in innovation, added benefits (increased crop production and more opportunities for recreation) as well as a re-allocation of jobs (namely consultant positions). But Mr. Donnan stresses that solid planning is required to achieve optimal efficiency with any environmental program.
For further coverage and photos of the event, see the April/May edition of HazMat Management magazine.
For further information, or for a copy of the ministry report, contact John Nicholson, Environmental Business Consultants at 905-271-2845 or firstname.lastname@example.org