Cumulative effects assessment in air approvals

ERO number
013-1680
Notice type
Policy
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Transferred to
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
November 9, 2017 - February 8, 2018 (90 days) Closed

This consultation was open from:
November 9, 2017
to February 8, 2018

Decision summary

We have a new policy to improve how we consider cumulative impacts from multiple air pollution sources. The policy applies to air emissions of benzene and benzo[a]pyrene in the Hamilton/Burlington area and benzene in the Sarnia/Corunna area.

Decision details

The Cumulative Effects Assessment in Air Approvals policy will guide decisions on Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) applications for new or expanding facilities.

It applies to:

  • benzene and benzo[a]pyrene in Hamilton/Burlington
  • benzene in Sarnia/Corunna

This policy will apply to applications for ECAs that are submitted after October 1, 2018. 

This is a first step and targeted policy that identifies specific contaminants and specific areas. We will continue to look at other contaminants, sources and geographic areas and consult with public and stakeholders as we expand the policy over time.

Read more about the policy.

Benzene and benzo[a]pyrene

Since 2005, the province has released or updated 69 air-quality standards based on protecting human or ecosystem health.

Most recently, we introduced new and updated science-based air standards to address industrial emissions of benzene and benzo[a]pyrene. They came into effect July 1, 2016. 

This cumulative effects policy builds on that action to improve air-quality in these communities that include multiple industrial sources. 

For these contaminants and geographical areas, an interactive map will be made available on our website by October 1, 2018.

Next steps

This decision is a first step and targeted policy to test the effectiveness of this new approach in Ontario.

We are committed to consulting and developing this policy, including:

  • continuing discussions with the Air Standards/Local Air Quality External Working Group to inform further policy development and implementation
  • engaging other partners and stakeholders to address contaminants in air from sources other than industry
  • reviewing this cumulative effects policy within two years. The review will:
    • consider other air dispersion models
    • further analyse air quality data and other data sources to identify additional contaminants and geographic areas that could be included in the policy
    • ensure we work regularly with the External Working Group to define the scope of the review and further develop the policy
  • communicating and engaging with communities on the policy and  its review

Comments received

Through the registry

31

By email

20

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

We considered all comments received during the comment period in response to the proposal posting. The 51 comments received also includes a form letter submitted by more than 2200 individuals.

Feedback summary

In general, many comments supported the proposal as a reasonable first step. Other views included:

  • area residents and environmental groups – identified that the proposal is a very modest first step and needs to be more ambitious
  • regulated community – suggested caution with this first step and the need for further evaluation to understand the impacts of the policy on economic development, but recognized the need to take some action based on the current science
  • public health and environmental groups – encourage us to develop a comprehensive cumulative effects policy covering emissions of all pollutants across the province.

There were differing perspectives on how the policy should progress, summarized below.

 

Key comments and how we considered them in developing the policy

Comment: Clarify the definition of a cumulative effects assessment and the goals of this policy.

It should:

  • drive continuous improvement and prevent further degradation of air quality
  • promote environmental justice, transparency, accountability and public engagement
  • protect the right of all persons to a healthy environment

Consideration: 

For the purposes of this policy, “cumulative effect” is the concentration of a contaminant in air which results from the discharges from multiple emitters in a given geographic or local area. It applies to emitters of contaminants governed by section 9 of the Environmental Protection Act

We will continue to work with the Air Standards/Local Air Quality Regulation external working group to further develop and implement the policy building on the existing framework of continuous improvement, public transparency, accountability and public engagement under the local air quality regulation (Ontario Regulation 419/05).

 

Comment: The policy should apply to existing facilities, not just new and expanding facilities.

Consideration:

Existing facilities are already regulated under the local air quality regulation.

Since 2005, we’ve released or updated 69 air-quality standards, including the benzene and recent sulphur dioxide air standards, based on protecting human or ecosystem health. These health-based standards help drive continuous improvement and the use of best available technology by industrial emitters.

This cumulative effects policy builds upon the local air quality regulation with a focus on areas where concentrations exceed Ambient Air Quality Criteria.

 

Comment: The policy should apply to facilities registered in the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR).

Some commenters were concerned that facilities in the province that are now covered in the EASR and not subject to Environmental Compliance Approvals could be major contributors of a contaminant if considered together, from a cumulative effects perspective.  

Consideration:

We will look at other data sources including the EASR as part of the review of this policy.

 

Comment: The policy should recognize and address non-industrial sources.

Industry, public health and environmental groups asked that a broader management framework be developed to address industrial and non-industrial sources.

Consideration:

In some areas and for some contaminants, non-industrial sources can be significant contributors of emissions to an airshed.  

We are developing an air zone management framework to manage regional air quality across Ontario’s air zones and achieve the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards levels established for ozone, fine particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. 

This framework will:

  • provide guidance on the nature of management actions and monitoring and reporting activities undertaken by governments, community partners and stakeholders to support the continuous improvement of Ontario’s air quality
  • be designed to consider the impact of industrial and non-industrial sources of pollutants for which Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards have been established and to assess the impact of local environmental circumstances on air quality
  • include elements, such as multiple source emissions assessments and consideration of the impacts of existing and new activities to provide information to assist governments, industry and community partners in understanding the multiple sources of air pollution
  • build on existing policies, programs and legislation
  • become part of our toolkit to address air quality concerns
  • place strong emphasis on involving community stakeholders and municipalities and recognizes the role of the federal government in managing transboundary air pollution and national and global-scale air quality issues

As we move forward with developing and implementing the framework, local governments, community stakeholders, industry and other interested groups will be engaged in the process.

Collaboration will ensure that more local concerns can be taken into consideration when identifying key air quality challenges, and that the management actions identified meet community needs while improving air quality.  

 

Comment: The policy should apply to other contaminants.

Consideration:

We can use the approach to identify contaminants for this first-step policy to identify additional contaminants and geographic areas. This will be part of our review of this policy.

To identify which contaminants to include in the policy, we reviewed ambient air monitoring information. As a first step, we considered the cumulative risk from the monitoring data for several cancer-causing volatile organic chemicals and found that benzene and benzo[a]pyrene were the most significant contributors to cancer risk. Refer to the Discussion Paper: Cumulative Effects Assessment in Air Approvals for more information.

We will continue these kinds of analyses to inform ongoing review and development and to identify new contaminants and geographic areas for the policy.

To address regional air pollutants, we are developing an Air Zone Management Framework (see above).  

 

Comment: Use CALPUFF model as the preferred multi-source dispersion model in place of AERMOD

One comment proposed the U.S. EPA Human Exposure Model for inhalation pathway of exposure for chemicals in air to account for cumulative risks from multiple pollutants and multiple sources.

Consideration:

The current policy uses AERMOD for multi-source modelling.

Industrial sources assessed in the development of this policy were already required to use AERMOD under Ontario Regulation 419/05: Air Pollution – Local Air Quality, and emission rate information in a suitable format was available for modelling. Other jurisdictions have used AERMOD for this type of assessment and for areas of this size.

We will look at other approaches and tools, including CALPUFF and those of the U.S. EPA, as part of the review of this policy.

 

Comment: The policy should apply to all of Ontario and dates for roll-out across the province should be clarified. Expansion of the policy should be supported by appropriate evaluation and consultation.

Consideration:

This policy was designed using an approach that could be applied for any area and any contaminant. It is based on a review of ambient air monitoring for selected contaminants.

Within two years, we will engage with stakeholders and communities as part of a review and future expansion of this policy.

 

Comment: Use additional data sources to identify areas that need further multi-source modelling and explicitly consider community concerns. Suggestions included:

  • peer-reviewed scientific evidence
  • ambient air quality monitoring data
  • emissions inventories (NPRI (Canada), ChemTRAC (Toronto)), Toxic Reduction Act database and emissions information

Consideration:

As part of the review, we will consider other air quality data and other data sources to identify new contaminants and geographic areas that could be included in the policy.

 

Comment: Relative contributions for industrial and non-industrial sources of emissions should be considered when management actions are required.  

Consideration:

In some areas, non-industrial sources can be more significant than industrial sources. 

This policy focuses on communities with multiple industrial sources and where ambient air monitoring shows levels above the Ambient Air Quality Criteria.

We will continue to develop approaches for determining relative source contributions (industrial and non-industrial) through modelling.

See also comments on the development of the Air Zone Management Framework (above). 

 

Comment: Clarify the definitions of new facility, expanding facility and net increase in point of impingement (POI) concentrations.

Consideration:

For facilities located in Action Levels 2 or 3:

“New facility” means:

  • no construction of any part of the facility has occurred before the date that ECA application was received by the ministry, and
  • no ECA has been issued in respect of any part of the facility before the date the ECA was received by the ministry.

“Expanding facility” means:

  •  that an application for an ECA is received by the ministry in respect of a modification at the facility that will result in:
    • an increase in production rate; or
    • a net increase in the POI concentrations  benzene or benzo[a]pyrene compared to the Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling report that was submitted in respect of the facility’s current approval; or
    • an increase in emissions benzene or benzo[a]pyrene

At the time of application or through pre-submission consultation, which can occur up to two years prior to application submission, the s.9 Director will determine whether a Technology Benchmarking Report will be required.

 

Comment: The technology benchmarking should consider global and not just North American facilities.

Consideration:

A technology benchmarking report should consider technologies from any other jurisdiction – not just North America. Learn how to develop the report in our Guide to Requesting a Site-specific Standard Appendix A: Technology Benchmarking Reports.

 

Comment: No new emissions sources should be approved in an airshed that is of concern. 

Some also suggested that we should:

  • lower management action levels
  • require best available control methods when the Ambient Air Quality Criteria is exceeded by up to 10 times
  • refuse approvals when the Ambient Air Quality Criteria is exceeded by more than 100 times

Consideration:

The action levels for the carcinogens set out in proposal and in the policy are based on the risk framework in the local air quality regulation’s Guideline for the Implementation of Air Standards in Ontario (as amended). This policy requires increasing levels of risk management as air concentrations increase above the ambient air quality criteria.

Through site-specific and technical standards under the local air quality regulation, we can ensure facilities use best available technology or best operational practices to reduce their contributions to emissions and air quality.

These compliance approaches are consistent with the U.S. EPA approach to addressing cumulative impacts on airsheds, which requires facilities in non-attainment areas to utilized best available controls.

The U.S. EPA’s approach relies more heavily on prescribed technology requirements for all regulated facilities. Ontario’s approach allows us to focus on those facilities that need to take action, rather than prescribing technology requirements for all regulated facilities.

 

Comment: The policy may have unintended economic consequences and could restrict investment in industrial clusters.

Consideration:

Similar to the outcomes achieved in a site-specific or technical standards process, updated requirements that focus on best available control technologies can be phased-in over time.

Ongoing improvement through best available technology is a fundamental principle of the site-specific and technical standards compliance approaches. These pathways to compliance promote continuous improvement over time.

We’ve used this approach in the cumulative effects policy.

 

Comment: Engage communities, stakeholders and other interested parties to help explain this policy and air quality issues.  

Consideration: We will work with communities, public health, Indigenous communities and stakeholders to communicate this policy, its implementation and future review.

 

Other information

The Technical Background on Multi-Source Air Dispersion Modelling describes the multi-source modelling that supports this policy.

Since the November 2017 proposal posting, we refined these models,:

  • using version 16216r of the U.S. EPA  AERMOD air dispersion model (the most recent version currently approved for use in Ontario) in place of version 13350 
  • preprocessing meteorological data using version 16126 of the U.S. EPA  AERMET meteorological data preprocessor
  • including contributions for benzo-a-pyrene from road sources in the multi-source model for Hamilton
  • incorporating updated tail pipe emissions from MOVES2014a and revising the modelling assumptions to better represent the raised skyway in response to technical comments
  • using a larger modelling domain in Hamilton to better delineate action areas

These updates refine the multi-source model and allow us to better delineate action level areas. They did not change the types of action level areas in the communities.

Supporting materials

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Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Local Air Quality Section
Address

40 St. Clair Avenue West
7th & 9th floor
Toronto ON M4V 1M2
Canada

Office phone number

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Original proposal

ERO number
013-1680
Notice type
Policy
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Proposal posted

Comment period

November 9, 2017 - February 8, 2018 (90 days)

Proposal details

Description of policy

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (ministry) is proposing a new policy for Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) in air approvals to more effectively consider cumulative impacts from multiple air pollution sources - both industrial and non-industrial.

Details of the proposal are described in “Proposal for Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) in Air Approvals” (Attachment 1).

The “Discussion Paper: Cumulative Effects Assessment in Air Approvals” (Attachment 2) describes the underlying framework and rationale for the proposed policy and discusses how, in the future, the ministry could further develop the proposed policy through consideration of additional communities and/or contaminants.

The new proposed policy applies to air emissions of benzene and benzo[a]pyrene in the Hamilton/Burlington area and benzene in the Sarnia/Corunna area. The monitored levels for these contaminants exceed the ministry’s ambient air quality criteria (AAQCs) on an annual average basis. These areas also have multiple industrial facilities regulated by the local air quality regulation. In order to have a better understanding of the areas where the AAQCs were exceeded, multi-source models were developed. Through this modelling, the ministry identified areas and action levels where the CEA policy applies.

Action levels were established based on the ministry’s Framework for Managing Risk described in the Guideline for Implementation of Air Standards in Ontario under the local air quality regulation.

Details on the multi-source modelling may be obtained from the ministry on request by contacting Lubna Hussain (Lubna.i.hussain@ontario.ca).

The technology requirements for new/expanded facilities would depend on the action level associated with their location. Enhanced air pollution controls or best management practices may be required even if the facility meets the air standard under the Local Air Quality Regulation (O. Reg. 419/05). 

Purpose of policy

The intent of this proposal is to strengthen and clarify the consideration of cumulative effects when making decisions related to environmental compliance approvals (ECAs) for activities governed by section 9 of the Ontario Environmental Protection Act (EPA).

The proposal focuses on actions for industrial facilities. It is through other programs such as the ministry’s Air Zone Management Framework that actions by non-industrial sources would be addressed.

Public consultation

This proposal was posted for a 90 day public review and comment period starting November 09, 2017. Comments were to be received by February 07, 2018.

All comments received during the comment period are being considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry.

Please Note: All comments and submissions received have become part of the public record.

Other public consultation opportunities

The ministry works with the Air Standards/Local Air Quality Regulation External Working Group (EWG) to seek early input on proposed policies related to local air quality. The EWG is a group of industry, public health, environmental non-governmental organizations and some First Nations community members that meet regularly to discuss issues related to local air quality and to provide recommendations to the government. A Cumulative Air Emissions Assessment (CAEA) subgroup of the EWG met in 2015/2016 to review cumulative effects policies in other jurisdictions, conduct case studies, and to discuss principles of a cumulative effects proposal. The ministry considered the input of the EWG sub-group in the development of this proposal.

For the communities identified in this proposed policy, the ministry will engage community organizations to explain how the contaminants and action levels were established.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Standards Development Branch
Address

40 St. Clair Avenue West
7th floor
Toronto ON M4V 1M2
Canada

Office phone number

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from November 9, 2017
to February 8, 2018

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