August 23, 2004

Resolving differences between federal, Ontario emissions inventory programs is key to harmonization

A report commissioned by a joint federal-provincial working group representing Environment Canada (EC) and the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) has singled out 38 specific differences between the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) and Ontario's Airborne Discharge Monitoring and Reporting regulation (O Reg 127/01). The report, "A Comprehensive Review of the Differences between the NPRI and O Reg.127/01," is part of a three-year pilot project begun in 2001 for the purpose of harmonizing, to the extent possible, the reporting requirements of the two emissions inventory programs.

Despite the differences between the two programs, the working group emphasizes that both are successful, each in its own way, and that the level of success can be advanced even higher through harmonization. The analysis is intended to serve as a basic document for discussions and decisions by EC and the MOE to resolve the differences and harmonize their respective programs while enhancing the delivery of the two programs. There is great opportunity, says the report, to enhance both inventory programs and make both programs the best. EC and MOE can become the leaders in providing monitoring and reporting management in North America.

Environment Canada established the NPRI in 1993 to provide a multi-media emissions inventory on selected substances. The NPRI is used both to support environmental programs and to inform the public about pollutants being released into the environment, especially at the local level. In 2001, Ontario introduced O Reg 127/01 to ensure timely reporting and public dissemination of information on air emissions of contaminants in the province and as a vital step toward improving air quality and addressing climate change, acid rain and smog.

The 38 differences between the emissions inventory programs include 18 distinct differences, plus 20 sub-components. Some of the differences are national in perspective, while others are specific to EC and/or the MOE, or to reporting facilities. Others relate to the regulated community, reporting criteria, requirements, thresholds and exemptions.

The differences have been grouped into five categories according to commonality of affected parties, interdependency or interrelationships with each other. The categories are as follows:

Category 1: Program Elements, i.e. differences in program elements or in the essential features of the base programs;

Category 2: Interpretations Affecting the Regulated Community, related to matters such as definitions, interpretations of terms or terminology, or the application of a term in a different manner;

Category 3: Differences Within the Regulated Community, i.e. those specifically associated with the regulated community of facilities and some facilities that are exempted such as the upstream oil, gas, well drilling and mining industries;

Category 4: Threshold Differences, i.e. differences associated with the thresholds established; and

Category 5: Differences in Reported Substances, i.e. differences associated with the lists of substances reported under the NPRI and O Reg. 127/01.

The review raised several key issues in the identification and analysis of the differences and the provision of options for harmonization. These are outlined below.

*The NPRI and O Reg. 127/01 are two distinct inventory programs dealing with virtually the same reporting clientele. Although the two programs had different start times and reflect each government agency's way of doing business, there is a great opportunity to harmonize them and advance their respective "yardsticks." EC and MOE need to simplify, streamline and provide adequate coverage of substances and reporting facilities, says the report.

*The review also stresses the need to simplify and streamline the regulated community, noting that the current approaches are creating a burden for both government and industry.

*There are many exemptions in the two inventories which are different, and can cause confusion and/or create a burden. Many of the exemptions relate to the type of combustion sources. EC and the MOE may want to consider providing an exemption only for clean fuels which they specify. If other types of fuel or these clean fuels in combination with other types of fuels are burnt, the facility must comply with the reporting thresholds.

*The removal of the current exemptions for facilities may increase the number of facilities reporting. This is an issue of coverage and threshold establishment. If thresholds are set appropriately, then there should not be a need for facility exemptions. Any facility exceeding the threshold should report; otherwise, there is a coverage issue created. This would remove the confusion and burden that currently exists.

*The two lists of substances need to be harmonized, simplified and streamlined as well as cross-referenced when there is a difference. The major issue with the Tables of Contaminants under the MOE's program is that facilities may have two different sets of reporting requirements for a single contaminant. This issue needs to be addressed immediately by MOE.

*The quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) of data needs to be improved. Significant discrepancies in the data comparison between the NPRI and O Reg. 127/01 are indicative of erroneous and poor quality reporting by the facilities, combined with possible software and data processing problems with the two databases. The first annual reporting deadline for O Reg.127/01 was June 1, 2002, and facility operators may still not have adapted to the new regulation.

The report stresses the need for EC and the MOE to address QA/QC of data as a major problem from a due diligence perspective as well as the "one-window" reporting under the two inventory programs which is being proposed. This issue, it says, must be resolved quickly so that people will have confidence in the databases.

Pollutant reporting and monitoring programs in Canada are still at an early stage of evolution and, in the working group's view, EC and the provinces and territories have a great opportunity to make major inroads. They could create a federal and provincial "one-window" program incorporating federal and provincial inventory programs which are integrated and mutually beneficial. This would be unmatched by any jurisdiction, says the report.

EC also has the chance to provide leadership and direction in building an effective, efficient program based on the harmonization activities with Ontario. The fact that there are minimal inventory activities in the rest of Canada makes it easier, from a government agency perspective, to consider options without having to worry about affecting other provincial and territorial programs. The report recommends that EC work closely with the other provinces and territories to keep them abreast of any impending changes so that these agencies can follow the progress and incorporate it into their planning cycles.

Following up on the completed review, the working group has developed a detailed plan for addressing the report's findings. The group has sorted the differences into three groups to be addressed in specific ways. Group 1 will consist of differences which EC and the MOE will address immediately (i.e. within six months) for resolutions.

Group 2 consists of the differences that affect the reporting community and whose resolutions require significant change to either or both programs. Resolution of these changes will take more consideration and discussion because they involve complex technical issues as well as basic program-based differen

Group 3 consists of differences related to factors which cannot be addressed because they are outside the mandate of the pilot project and need to be addressed by a broader range of divisions within EC and the MOE.

More information on the report and the group's response is available on the Green Lane Web site, www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/npri/ResponseECandMOE/executivesummary_e.cfm.

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