Keeping Track of Environmental Compliance & Permitting

Terry Lam, P. Eng.  – Specialist, Compliance & Permitting

October 7, 2015

Like it or not, environmental compliance and permitting (C&P) requirements can often be affected by day-to-day operations. Often, facilities are not aware of these impacts or do not consider environmental compliance in day-to-day decision making. This can lead to unanticipated issues, extra work, or poor quality estimates when addressing end-of-year reporting requirements such as those related to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI), Toxics Reduction Act (TRA), Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reporting, and preparing Annual Written Summaries (AWS) required by an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA). Failure to consider C&P requirements can also lead to surprise findings if you are inspected by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

Consider the following examples:

  1. A facility switches from a mix of xylene and toluene solvents for cleaning equipment to purely xylene solvent. This change pushes xylene usage above the threshold for TRA requirements. At year end, the facility is shocked to find out that they must prepare a reduction plan and complete in-depth toxics accounting for xylene, a significant and costly effort.
  2. A facility makes the minor change of re-ducting an existing paint spray booth exhaust under the Limited Operational Flexibility conditions on their ECA. The plant manager does not remember the continuous assessment requirements imposed by the ECA, and no updated assessment is prepared until the AWS is due. When the assessment is completed, it is determined that the exhaust relocation does not comply with emissions standards due to the close proximity to a neighboring unit’s air intake. There is now a requirement for retroactive abatement.

Other common occurrences include failing to amend an ECA for changes to processes or equipment, or not considering that the expansion of operations may result in exceeding a GHG reporting threshold. Sometimes, only knowing at year end that you are required to report can lead to difficult problems, since not everything can be remedied retroactively (such as the requirement to calibrate certain meters or measure certain parameters for Ontario GHG reporting).

The establishment of an environmental C&P due diligence process, which could be a simple as a checklist of considerations, can save you lots of headaches and costs when a requirement to report or reconcile comes around.

Need assistance? ORTECH can help you:

  • Establish an environmental C&P due diligence process
  • Report to the NPRI
  • Prepare a Toxics Substance Reduction Plan and complete Toxics Substance Accounting
  • Apply for an Environmental Compliance Approval with Limited Operational Flexibility
  • Prepare and submit an Annual Written Summary