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Ontario Government Targets Remediation Sector for Full ECA Requirements


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July 7, 2016 by John Nicholson

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) recently issued a Technical Discussion Paper on Proposed Regulatory Changes and Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) Requirements: Plant and Production Processes with Air and Noise Emissions that should be read by organizations involved in remediation services in the Province of Ontario.

Included in the Technical Discussion Paper is a list of select plant and production processes that the Ontario MOECC is considering for inclusion in a proposed Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) Regulation.  Also in the document is a list of industries and activities that the MOECC does not consider eligible for the proposed EASR regulation.  Included in the ineligible list is remediation services (NAICS Code 56291).

The MOECC began implementing EASR Regulations several years ago in an effort to streamline the approvals process in the Province of Ontario.  Facilities in specified sectors or specified activities listed the EASR Regulations are required to register the activities with the MOECC instead of the traditional requirement of applying for an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA), which was formerly known as an Certificate of Approval (C of A).  The EASR is a public, online system where people engaging in selected activities are required to register the activity and meet operating requirements set out in regulation.

Under the EASR Regulations, as long as an eligible sector or activity is registered and follows the requirements of the Regulations, it is in environmental compliance.  There is no need for the preparation of extensive and complicated environmental applications, MOECC review of the applications, and the eventual issuance of an ECA.

As part of the MOECC’s ongoing work to implement a risk-based environmental approvals program, additional activities and sectors are being evaluated for their potential inclusion in the EASR Regulations.  The additional activities and sectors are described in the recently released Technical Discussion Paper.  The MOECC is conducting this work through comprehensive technical analysis and two periods of public consultation to ensure registry activities are developed in a transparent and science-based manner and that the resulting registry rules are protective of the environment.

The difference in the cost and timing of registering a facility or activity under an EASR Regulation versus the applying for and eventually obtaining an ECA is very significant.  An ECA (air & noise) requires both an emission summary and dispersion modelling (ESDM) report and an acoustic assessment report.  Most organizations require the services of an environmental consultant to prepare the technical documentation to support an ECA application.

Once an ECA application is submitted to the MOECC, the time it takes Environmental Approval Branch of the MOECC to process and review the application and supporting document and issue the ECA is months and in some cases, over a year.   While waiting for the issuance of an ECA, the proponent is not permitted to even begin construction of the system and engage in the activity of which approval is being sought.

Remediation services under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code 56291 comprises establishments primarily engaged in the remediation and clean-up of contaminated buildings, mine sites, soil or ground water.  Establishments primarily engaged in integrated mine site reclamation activities, such as soil remediation, waste water treatment, hazardous material removal, contouring of land and re-vegetation, are also included.

In the Technical Discussion Paper, the MOECC considers the remedial services sector to be high risk and complex and thus not eligible for EASR registration.  As the MOECC Technical Discussion Paper is written, any remedial services that emit either air contaminants or noise would be required to obtain an ECA (air & noise).  The threshold for the quantity of air contaminants or “loudness” of the noise is open to interpretation as section 9 of the Ontario Environmental Protection Act is quite strict and reads as follows:

“9. (1) No person shall, except under and in accordance with an environmental compliance approval,

 (a) use, operate, construct, alter, extend or replace any plant, structure, equipment, apparatus, mechanism or thing that may discharge or from which may be discharged a contaminant into any part of the natural environment other than water; or

 (b) alter a process or rate of production with the result that a contaminant may be discharged into any part of the natural environment other than water or the rate or manner of discharge of a contaminant into any part of the natural environment other than water may be altered.  R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19, s. 9 (1); 2010, c. 16, Sched. 7, s. 2 (4).”

The MOECC is seeking public input to its technical discussion document and has specifically asked if Ontarian’s agree with the proposed list of activities that would be ineligible to registers for the proposed Plan and Production Processes EASR Regulation that is described in the Technical Discussion Paper.

The deadline for public comment on the proposals described in the Technical Discussion Paper is August 29th.  To provide comments electronically, visit the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights Environmental Registry.


John Nicholson

John Nicholson

John is a cleantech and environmental expert with over 25 years of experience. He is a registered professional engineer and has a Masters degree in environmental engineering.
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