New Clean Air Regulation Finally Takes Effect in Québec

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Almost six years ago, the Québec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (Ministry) published a draft regulation on clean air requirements under the Environment Quality Act. At long last, it has enacted a final Clean Air Regulation. The new Regulation, which replaces the Regulation respecting the Quality of the Atmosphere, took effect on June 30, 2011 and has implications for all facilities located in Québec that produce air emissions. Here’s an overview of the new regulation.

OVERVIEW OF THE REGULATION

Who It Covers: The regulation applies to “every source of atmospheric contamination.” But some facilities and equipment are subject only to certain sections of the regulations, including:

  • Bituminous concrete plants;
  • Quarries and sandpits;
  • Production equipments subject to certain provisions of the Regulation respecting pulp and paper mills;
  • Flour mills and other grain processing facilities; and
  • Fuel burning systems used for domestic heating.

Key Dates: Although the Regulation itself took effect on June 30, 2011, some specific requirements take effect at a later date:

  • June 30, 2013: When particle emissions limits for certain facilities, activities or industrial process, such as flour mills, distilleries, breweries, fertilizer mixing plants, concrete plants, polyvinyl chloride processing plants, drilling other than the drilling of a water supply well and indoor sandblasting, take effect;
  • June 30, 2014: When new general emissions standards for volatile organic compounds emitted into the atmosphere or likely to be emitted during storage or during the use or storage of organic solvents take effect; and
  • June 30, 2016: New standards and emissions limits for aluminum smelters, cement plants, wood processing facilities, petroleum refineries and petrochemical plants, copper or zinc producing plants, fuel burning equipments and incinerators take effect between June 30, 2011 and June 30, 2016, depending on the standards, activities or installations. June 30, 2016 is also the deadline for operators of a petroleum refinery, petrochemical or organic chemical plant or petroleum depot or terminal to implement an annual plan for the detection and repair of any volatile organic compound leak.

Key Changes: In addition to tightening requirements contained in the previous regulation, the Regulation sets out new air emissions standards and requirements, including:

  • Province-wide air quality standards covering approximately 90 contaminants, including more than 80 new contaminants;
  • Mandatory source emissions testing, registry maintenance and submission of emissions reports to the Ministry for certain activities and industrial sectors;
  • Obligations regarding the installation of monitoring equipment applicable to various activities or industrial sectors; and
  • Increased fines for violations committed by a legal “person,” that is a company or other organization, ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 for a first offence and $10,000 to $1,000,000 for a second or subsequent offence depending on the section of the Regulation violated.

ANALYSIS

Governments are notoriously slow when it comes to enacting new laws and regulations. But almost six years from draft regulation to final version is quite a long time even by government standards. Is the new Regulation worth the wait? That remains to be seen. But it’s clear that between this Regulation and the province’s recently published draft regulation on a GHG cap-and-trade system, Québec is trying to be in the forefront of climate change regulation in Canada.