CELA recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, requesting that the Minister use his authority under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, and provide additional notice and comment and enhanced public participation opportunities in relation to applications and renewals of site-specific standards.
This request is timely as there are more than ten site-specific standards that expired on June 30th, 2023, and the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) will likely receive several subsequent requests for site-specific standards.
There is considerable public concern about the MECP’s use of alternative standards to regulate air emissions in Ontario. In particular, the public is concerned that the use of site-specific standards allows facilities to discharge contaminants at significantly higher levels that the provincial air standards – in some cases by several orders of magnitude. These contaminants include benzene and benzo(a)pyrene, which are human carcinogens and pose serious risk to public health and the environment. Moreover, facilities can operate for a lengthy time period of time of up to ten years under a site-specific standard with an opportunity to reapply. CELA notes that currently more than 15 industrial facilities in Ontario are operating under site-specific standards, contributing to poor air quality in Sarnia, Hamilton, and other regions of Ontario.