July 9, 2007

Ontario finalizes ban on burning used oil in space heaters

Ontario Regulation 280/07 was filed on June 27 with the provincial registrar of regulations. The amendment to Ontario Regulation 347 under the Environmental Protection Act bans the burning of used oil in space heaters.

The ban, which applies only to facilities in southern Ontario, will come into effect on June 1, 2009 for those that received a certificate of approval from the Ministry of Environment (MOE) before January 11, 2007 or began operating prior to September 1992 as long as space heaters are not altered or replaced. Space heaters that were in operation before September 1992 were previously exempt from regulation requirements. After June 1, 2009, no space heaters in southern Ontario will be permitted to burn used oil.

The ban is expected to affect about 700 facilities throughout Ontario, such as automotive service stations, dealerships, trucking fleet operators and construction businesses. Together, they burn about ten million litres of used oil annually for heat. This, says the MOE, could effectively be recovered and re-used or re-refined into new lubricating oil. In certain industrial applications, used oil can be reclaimed and effectively re-used almost indefinitely. The ban will add to the 150 million litres that are currently being re-refined annually in Ontario.

The ban does not apply to agricultural operations that burn their own used oil or industrial processes burning used oil under a certificate of approval.

Northern Ontario has also been exempted from the new regulation due to the limited collection of used oil in this region, which makes a ban impractical. Banning the practice in areas with limited options could lead to illegal dumping or other environmentally harmful disposal practices. Following the comment period on the regulatory proposal (which ran from January 11 to March 3, 2007), the definition of northern Ontario was refined to include the territorial district of Algoma, Cochrane, Kenora, Manitouline, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Rainy River, Sudbury, Thunder Bay or Timiskaming.

The regulation also defines "lubricating oil" and designates "used lubricating oil" (i.e., used oil) as a waste. The designation of "used lubricating oil" as a waste clarifies existing policy for used oil and will not affect Ontario companies or change their existing approvals for the management of used oil. The designation clarifies that "used lubricating oil," even when processed or used as fuel, remains a waste and is subject to Ontario's waste requirements.

Automotive used oil was not formulated for use as fuel and is much more contaminated than fuels like home heating oil and natural gas. Emissions from burning used oil in space heaters contain elevated levels of harmful contaminants when compared to burning home heating oil.

Nevertheless, the MOE received a total of 560 written comments on the proposed ban, the majority opposing it. The exemption of northern Ontario was one of the criticisms, observers noting that if burning used oil in space heaters poses a health risk, the ban should extend to the entire province. Commenters also encouraged the Ministry to look into building a used oil re-refinery in northern Ontario.

Stakeholders responding to the proposal further maintained that the ban was not supported by scientific data such as evidence of space heater emissions exceeding allowable limits, and claimed that the Ministry failed to consult with manufacturers, distributors and owners of space heaters before introducing the draft regulation.

The regulatory decision and further related information may be viewed on the provincial Environmental Registry, www.ebr.gov.on.ca, reference No RA07E0001.

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