Proposed regulatory amendments to the General Regulation (O. Reg. 267/03 – General) under the Nutrient Management Act to support on-farm regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facilities

ERO number
019-1234
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Nutrient Management Act, 2002
Posted by
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
January 28, 2020 - March 13, 2020 (45 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
January 28, 2020
to March 13, 2020

Decision summary

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) have amended O. Reg. 267/03 under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 (NMA) to make it easier for farmers to recycle food and organic waste with anaerobic digesters and participate in the growth of Ontario’s biogas sector.

Decision details

As part of Ontario’s Open for Business Action Plan, the government is committed to cutting red tape and reducing regulatory burden for all businesses, to lower business operating costs and improve Ontario’s competitiveness while continuing to maintain strong environmental oversight. Reducing burden on farmers is a critical part of ensuring rural Ontario is economically vibrant and competitive.

Regulatory amendments to O. Reg. 267/03 were made to create more opportunities for agricultural producers to treat manure and other on-farm anaerobic digestion materials along with larger quantities and additional types of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials including food and organic waste materials in regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facilities (RMADFs). The amendments also enable the economically viable production of biogas for the renewable natural gas market. OMAFRA and MECP have joint responsibility for the NMA and its regulations. The two ministries worked together to develop the regulatory amendments.

Expected outcomes of these regulatory changes include:

  • Increased opportunities for management of food and organic waste in the circular food economy;
  • Increased production of renewable natural gas in Ontario; and
  • Increased economic development opportunities for the agri-food sector.

The regulatory changes will:

  1. Clarify design and construction requirements to support renewable natural gas production while maintaining environmental protections for neighbours and local communities.
  2. Provide greater flexibility in the amount and type of on-farm and off-farm anaerobic digestion materials permitted for use in RMADFs to make the generation of renewable natural gas more effective, efficient, and economical for farmers.
  3. Simplify operational requirements regarding the sampling and analysis of received materials to reduce costs and enhance operational flexibility for farmers.

A consequential amendment to Reg. 347 under the Environmental Protection Act was also made to reflect the changes to the numbering of the Schedules for off-farm anaerobic digestion material in O. Reg. 267/03.

Comments received

Through the registry

7

By email

20

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

A total of 27 comments were received as a result of the posting from stakeholders, which included biogas stakeholders, professional engineers, municipalities, farmers, agri-food associations, waste management organizations, and individuals. All the feedback received during the commenting period for the posting was considered.  

Based on the feedback, the regulatory proposal was modified from the proposal posted on the Environmental Registry.  These changes are reflected in the regulatory amendments.

Design and Construction Requirements

There was support for clarifying design and constructions requirements to maintain environmental protections.  

To address stakeholder feedback, the regulatory amendments clearly define what components fall within the definition of a RMADF, and therefore are required to meet certain rules in the regulation, for example, setback requirements and systems required to reduce potential for odour. The regulatory amendments also include design requirements to enable biogas upgrading to renewable natural gas to occur on an agricultural operation under the NMA.

Permitted Feedstocks

There was support for providing greater flexibility in the quantity and type of permitted on- and off-farm anaerobic digestion materials.

There were concerns with the proposed maximum limit of 60,000 cubic meter per year of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials to be received at on-farm digesters. Several stakeholders expressed that a more appropriate maximum limit would be up to 40,000 cubic meter per year for off-farm anaerobic digestion materials. To address this feedback, the regulatory proposal has been amended with an upper limit of 40,000 cubic meter per year of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials.

There were concerns of possible odour issues resulting from allowing receipt of more and different types of off-farm anerobic digestion material in a RMADF. As well, additional specifications and details were requested to address pathogens and plastics associated with increased off-farm anaerobic digestion materials and Source Separated Organics (SSOs). Based on this feedback, a number of changes were made in the regulatory proposal, noted here.

SSOs must be de-packaged and screened at a facility with an Environmental Compliance Approval or Renewable Energy Approval, and the facility must be able to meet specified plastic and screening limits. Also, SSOs may only be received from municipalities that do not accept diapers, sanitary products or incontinence products in their SSO collection programs.

Comprehensive Odour Management requirements have been developed for facilities receiving more than 10,000 cubic meter of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials per year or any SSOs. These facilities must: have an Odour Management Plan prepared by a Professional Engineer; have odour control measures in place; and meet required setbacks to dwellings, residential areas and community, commercial and institutional uses. A Significant Odour Emissions rule has been established that prohibits these RMADFs and any RMADF constructed after July 1, 2021 from emitting a significant odour emission that is uncharacteristic of an agricultural operation without a RMADF.

Anaerobic digestion output from RMADFs that receive SSOs must meet prescribed limits related to plastics, foreign matter, metals, and pathogens. The anaerobic digestion output must also meet beneficial use criteria. Digestate that has met regulatory requirements may be land applied as an Agricultural Source Material at specified land application rates.

For a digester that has received more than 10,000 cubic meter per year of off-farm anaerobic digestion material or any SSOs and has not met certain operational or output quality requirements, the digestate may become “Restricted Anaerobic Digestion Output” which may only be land applied as Non-Agricultural Source Material (NASM) under an approved NASM Plan and in accordance to additional measures during land application.

In addition, quality requirements have been established for clean-out material from RMADFs that receive more than 10,000 cubic meter per year of off-farm anaerobic digestion material or any SSOs to provide protection related to plastic and foreign matter during land application.

Stakeholders requested various changes to the Schedules of off-farm anaerobic digestion material that are permitted for use in a RMADF. The Schedules have been moved from the Regulation to a Protocol, adopted by reference. Moving the Schedules to a Protocol allows updates to be made more readily, based on scientific evidence.

Operational Requirements

There was support for simplifying operational requirements regarding the sampling and analysis of received off-farm anaerobic digestion materials to help reduce costs and enhance operational flexibility for farmers while maintaining environmental standards. The Regulation reduces requirements for accepting a load of off-farm anaerobic digestion material that is to be diverted to another RMADF if the material is already known to be acceptable under the Regulation and meets certain analysis requirements.

Supporting materials

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Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

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Contact

Christy Taglieri

Phone number
Office
Food Safety and Environmental Policy Branch
Address

1 Stone Road West
Ontario Government Building, 2nd floor, Southwest
Guelph, ON
N1G 4Y2
Canada

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Original proposal

ERO number
019-1234
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Nutrient Management Act, 2002
Posted by
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Proposal posted

Comment period

January 28, 2020 - March 13, 2020 (45 days)

Proposal details

The Ontario government is proposing changes to the General Regulation (O. Reg. 267/03 – General) made under the NMA to ease the burden for agricultural producers that wish to operate a regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facility.

The proposed changes would make it easier and faster for agricultural producers to establish an on-farm, energy-generating regulated mixed anaerobic digestion projects that would operate under the regulatory requirements of the NMA. This would help reduce approval costs for farmers and achieve objectives of driving economic development in the province, while continuing to protect our environment.

Proposed changes would encourage development of renewable natural gas at on-farm regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facilities by allowing greater flexibility in type, volume and proportion of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials while enhancing requirements to protect the environment and reduce noise and odour impacts in rural communities.

Currently, the NMA and the General Regulation (O. Reg. 267/03 – General) regulate some on-farm anaerobic digestion facilities that mix on-farm anaerobic digestion materials (e.g., manure, corn silage) and off-farm anaerobic digestion materials (e.g. food processing products and by-products). O. Reg. 267/03 – General calls these anaerobic digestion facilities regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facilities (RMADFs). Other anaerobic digestion facilities are regulated by an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) or a Renewable Energy Approval issued under the Environmental Protection Act. This proposal focuses on the on-farm anaerobic digestion facilities regulated under the Regulation.

The purpose of the NMA is to provide for the management of materials containing nutrients in ways that will enhance protection of the natural environment and provide a sustainable future for agricultural operations and rural development.  O. Reg. 267/03 – General under the NMA originally came into force in 2003 to further this purpose. O. Reg. 267/03 – General has evolved and regulates the management of a variety of prescribed materials including their storage and land application and it also regulates the use of RMADFs on a farm unit on which an agricultural operation is carried out.

O. Reg. 267/03 – General has design and processing requirements that facilities must meet to operate as an RMADF.

Existing regulatory requirements under the O. Reg. 267/03 – General were designed when the biogas industry was new in Ontario, and the rules have been updated over time. These requirements were designed for RMADFs within the context of generating electricity and do not easily accommodate systems developing the capacity to produce renewable natural gas. As the renewable natural gas marketplace develops, the province is proposing several regulatory changes to address the increasing demand for renewable natural gas.

Proposed regulatory amendments

1. Design and Construction Requirements

Changes are proposed so that O. Reg. 267/03 can accommodate anaerobic digestion systems that generate renewable natural gas on farms. Changes are also proposed to clarify design requirements that strengthen environmental protections. The changes could include:

  • clarified design requirements to enable biogas upgrading to renewable natural gas on an agricultural operation under the Nutrient Management Act
  • clearly define what components fall under the definition of an RMADF and therefore are required to meet certain rules within the regulation, for example setback requirements, and systems required to reduce potential for noise and odour
  • clarified digester tank design to bring liner and containment requirements into conformity with other permanent storage systems on the farm

2. Permitted Feedstocks

Changes are proposed to provide greater flexibility in quantity and type of permitted feedstock for RMADFs (for materials from both on-farm and off-farm sources) under the Nutrient Management Act, including:

  • changes to quantity limits of off-farm materials (materials that do not come from an agricultural operation) with plans to avoid possible noise and odour impacts:
  • increase maximum allowable limits (daily and annually) of off-farm materials, accompanied by new requirements for odour control and odour management plans
  • remove restrictions on the quantity of on-farm materials (materials from agricultural operations):
  • remove the restriction on materials that can be received from other farms, provided the RMADF is located on an agricultural operation that generates manure
  • increase allowable proportion of non-manure based agricultural materials for digestion with manure
  • provide greater flexibility for the types of off-farm materials that can be used in the digester
  • propose that manure from non-farm herbivorous animals including associated runoff and washwater could be added to Schedule 1
  • propose that certain de-packaged and screened source separated organics could be added to the list of Schedule 2 off-farm anaerobic digestion materials
  • propose new regulatory process to make it easier to approve new feedstocks in the future

3. Operational Requirements

Simplifying operational requirements regarding the sampling and analysis of received anaerobic digestion materials would help reduce costs and enhance operational flexibility for farmers while maintaining risk-based performance requirements and environmental standards. Changes could include:

  • reduce requirements for accepting a load of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials that is to be diverted to another RMADF if it is already known to be acceptable under the NMA 
  • propose that if a material is currently being sent to a RMADF, and if a valid lab analysis is currently in place for the first RMADF, that a single new load of material could be sent to a second RMADF prior to completion of a fresh lab analysis 

Analysis of regulatory impact

It is anticipated there would be no net increase in burden to businesses. The proposed change would enable livestock producers to develop a new revenue stream by providing access to the renewable natural gas generation market while continuing to provide a source of nutrients and organic matter for use on farm fields.

A clear, predictable process under the NMA can reduce time (6-12 months) and investment (potentially $30,000-$60,000) compared to other environmental approval pathways for farms looking to build an on-farm RNG RMADF.

Clear requirements under the NMA regulation would expedite new on-farm RMADF projects at reduced cost. Currently, a site-specific ECA is required. A digester that secures an ECA is also required to post a Financial Assurance bond with MECP, which can be thousands of dollars.

The time required to undertake an RMADF (2-3 months) is shorter than an ECA (6-12 months), as the prescriptive NMA requirements require less detailed analysis prior to approval.

Greater flexibility in the amount and type of on and off-farm feedstocks permitted for use in anaerobic digesters would make the generation of RNG more efficient and economical for farmers, while continuing to protect the environment.

Simplifying requirements for sampling and analysis of received materials would reduce costs and enhance operational flexibility for farmers. The proposed changes will benefit agricultural operations through a streamlined process that allows for reduced time for approvals while maintaining environmental standards and protections. Minimal administrative costs may include the time required by agricultural producers to read and understand the regulatory changes, should they be approved.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from January 28, 2020
to March 13, 2020

Connect with us

Contact

Christy Taglieri

Phone number
Office
Food Safety and Environmental Policy Branch
Address

1 Stone Road West
Ontario Government Building, 2nd floor, Southwest
Guelph, ON
N1G 4Y2
Canada

Office phone number