In our recent 2017 Environmental Protection Report, Good Choices, Bad Choices, we called on the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to address toxic industrial emissions affecting the Aamjiwnaang First Nation and Sarnia residents living and working within the area known as “Chemical Valley.” We made several recommendations to the MOECC to address the air pollution, including:
- Amend O. Reg. 419/05 under the Environmental Protection Act to set up-to-date Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) standards that protect human health; and
- Clarify, by regulation, that acid gas flaring must be included in emission modelling reports, even when associated with transitional operating conditions (such as start-ups, shut-downs and some non-routine operations).
On October 27th, the MOECC announced its plan to amend O. Reg. 419/05: Air Pollution – Local Air Quality to:
- Update air standards for SO2; and
- Clarify the requirements for assessing operating conditions to address contaminant emissions released into communities (namely SO2).
In our report, we recommended that the MOECC establish a SO2 standard that is in line with Health Canada’s level for sufficiently protecting human health (a 1-hour limit of, at most, 105 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3)). MOECC’s proposed new standard for SO2 is a 1-hour standard of 100 μg/m3. This new standard is almost 7 times more stringent than Ontario’s current 1-hour standard (690 μg/m3).
The ministry is also proposing to amend O. Reg. 419/05 to clarify the requirements for assessing emissions during transitional operating conditions. The proposed amendments would require petroleum refineries to model emissions of SO2 during acid gas flaring. This is important because the ministry relies on such models to determine whether companies are complying with the air quality regulation and meeting applicable air standards.
The MOECC has demonstrated that it is taking steps to address the impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment, and they are now seeking feedback from the public on these proposed changes.