Ontario Industrial Emission Requirements to Keep Up with Air Quality Standards: Permit Exemptions

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In Ontario, the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) requires that operations that emit air and noise contaminants can only do so under a permit issued by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). As Ontario’s premiere air permitting consultants, we are providing this blog as part of a series of communications to our audience to help provide greater understanding of the permitting process in Ontario.

 Environmental Compliance Approval

Permits can be one of two main types, either an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) required for “higher-risk” facilities (as defined by the NAICS code representative of on-site operations), or an Environmental Approvals Sector Registration (EASR). The main difference between the two types of permits is that, for ECAs, the assessments (for air and noise) must be submitted to the MECP for review and approval, whereas for EASRs, “approval” is granted by the private-sector Licensed Engineering Practitioner (LEP) that is hired by the facility. Although EASRs are essentially a third-party approval, and can often be obtained more quickly than ECAs, there are additional requirements imposed by the MECP for those types of permits.

Permit Exemptions

The focus of this blog is on exemptions, either total of partial, to requirements to obtain an air and noise permit.

There are two main sources of rules that define exemptions to the permitting requirements in Ontario. The first is the EPA itself. The Act contains the following exemptions to approvals:

  •  Routine maintenance carried out on any plant, structure, equipment, apparatus, mechanism, or thing.
  • Equipment for the combustion of fuel, other than waste incinerators, in buildings or structures designed for the housing of not more than three families.
  • Any equipment, apparatus, mechanism or thing in or used in connection with a building or structure designed for the housing of not more than three families where the only contaminant produced by such equipment, apparatus, mechanism or thing is sound or vibration.
  • Any plant, structure, equipment, apparatus, mechanism or thing that may be a source of contaminant of a class exempted therefrom by the regulations.
  • Any plant, structure, equipment, apparatus, mechanism, or thing used in agriculture.
  • Any motor or motor vehicle that is subject to Part III. R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19, s. 9 (3).

Clause (d) refers to exemption regulation 524/98 by implication. This is the other major source of exemptions. The regulation is too long to completely reproduce here, but it replicates some of the exemptions listed in the EPA and adds many more exempt activities. These would include, for example, construction activities, battery charging stations, and (under certain conditions) standby power systems and cooling towers.

Counter Exemptions

In cases where a facility contains sources of air and noise pollution that are not exempted, that is a permit is required, then one must evaluate the contaminants being emitted. However, if normally exempt sources at a site emit the same contaminants, then emissions from those (normally exempt) sources must be included in the assessment for permitted sources.

The most common example, for environmental consultants, is where you might have process-sources of gas combustion (emitting oxides of nitrogen, or NOx) being not exempt and thus requiring permitting. If there are other sources of gas combustion on-site, that are normally exempt, for example, limited comfort heating (less than about 1.5 MMBTU/hr site-wide) then NOx emissions from those (otherwise) exempt sources must be included in your air emissions assessment. This is a counter-exemption example, and the example extends to other source types also.

Bottom Line

  1. Check for exempt activities at your site first before including them in any air and noise assessment, as it may result in wasted effort and cost.
  2. Only include otherwise exempt sources if they emit the same contaminants as permit-requiring sources at your site.

If you have questions please do not hesitate to contact us; consider us one of your environmental consulting companies near me!