June 28, 2004

Air quality action plan targets smog emissions, applies NOX, SO2 limits to new industry sectors

The Ontario government last week unveiled a five-point action plan to reduce industrial air pollutants and curb smog-causing emissions. Highlights include application of limits on nitrogen oxide (NOX) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) to a wider range of industrial sectors, and new air standards for 29 pollutants - some for the first time.

Elements of the plan are outlined below.

1. Applying tough NOx and SO2 limits to more industrial sectors

The government has released an industrial emissions reduction plan incorporating a proposed regulation which would set tough new NOX and SO2 emissions limits for industry. For the first time, NOX and SO2 limits will be applied to six large industrial sectors including iron and steel, cement, petroleum refining, pulp and paper, glass and carbon black. Previously, such limits applied only to the electricity sector and non-ferrous smelting.

2. Making the NOX and SO2 limits even stricter in future years

The proposed regulation would require significant NOX and SO2 emissions reductions by 2010 and further reductions by 2015, leading to a 21% reduction in NOX from 1990 levels and a 46% reduction in SO2 from 1994 levels for capped industries.

3. Setting tough new and updated air standards for 29 pollutants

As part of the continuing update of Ontario's air standards, the government proposes to incorporate new or updated effects-based standards for 29 pollutants into General - Air Pollution Regulation 346 (see list, page 2). Effects-based standards are based on health and environmental impacts, rather than technical or economic factors. Regulating standards makes them stronger by giving them the force of law. The standards for the pollutants will be used primarily to assess and manage local impacts from industries on surrounding neighbourhoods and communities.

4. Updating air dispersion models

The proposed Air Dispersion Modelling Guideline for Ontario would replace the province's existing air dispersion models - now more than 30 years old - with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency models, which give a more accurate assessment of health and environmental impacts. This will bring Ontario up to date with other jurisdictions. Air dispersion models are used to assess compliance with provincial air standards.

5. Implementing a new approach to set and implement air standards more quickly

The document titled "Updating Ontario's Regulatory Framework to Protect Local Air Quality" outlines a proposed regulatory decision-making process which would be implemented by amending Regulation 346. The associated proposed Guideline for the Implementation of Air Standards in Ontario would improve the implementation of air standards while taking into accoutn the risk to the local community, the costs to industry, and public transparency. Effects-based air standards could be set and implemented more quickly because the decision-making process provides a mechanism to address timing, technical or economic issues at the same time as environmental issues.

If necessary, the process would allow site-specific or technology-based limits that take into consideration timing issues, technology limitations and/or economic barriers. The local community would have an opportunity for input into the decision-making process. Facilities would have to demonstrate that they are presently doing their best to reduce their emissions and would have to tell the Ministry and the public how they will improve their emissions over a time. The site-specific limit would be reviewed periodically to ensure continual improvement towards achieving the effects-based standard.

Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky also released Ontario's Clean Air Action Plan describing Ontario's smog reduction efforts. This report outlines Ontario's implementation plan for the Canada-wide Standards for particulate matter and ozone that the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment agreed to achieve by 2010.

The plan for reducing industrial emissions is intended to complement programs already in place to reduce air pollution from the transportation and electricity sectors. The Ontario Medical Association estimates that air pollution in Ontario leads to almost 1,900 premature deaths, 10,000 hospital admissions, 13,000 emergency room visits and 47 million sick days for employees each year. Smog worsens a number of health problems.

The five-point action plan has been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry (www.ene.gov.on.ca, registry reference No PA02E0031) for a 60-day comment period ending August 20, 2004. The Clean Air Action Plan report may also be viewed on the Ministry of Enviroment Web site.

The Ontario government proposes to incorporate new or updated standards into the General - Air Pollution Regulation 346 for following 29 pollutants:




Arsenic and compounds

Cadmium and compounds

Chromium VI and III


Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP)

Di-n-octylphthalate (DNOP)

Hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI) monomer, HDI biuret (HDI-BT), HDI isocyanurate (HDI-IC) and HDI-BT and HDI-IC mixture


Hydrogen cyanide

Hydrogen fluoride


Methane diphenyl diisocyanurate (MDI) monomer

Polymeric MDI

Methylene chloride

Methyl isocyanate

Nickel and compounds


Tetrachloroethylene (PERC)

Trichloroethylene (TCE)

Vinyl chloride


2,4-Toluene diisocyanate and 2,4- and 2,6-Toluene diisocyanate (mixed isomers)

Table of Contents  | Top of Page

  Ecolog Network