The Ultimate Guide to Ontario Air Approvals

Disclaimer: The information in this document should not be construed as legal or professional advice. ORTECH Consulting Inc. assumes no liability for any damages resulting from the use of this information by the reader.

Some common questions that our clients ask us about the approvals process in Ontario are answered below. For general information about the Air Approvals process in Ontario, including a list of what is involved in obtaining an approval and why approvals are required, please refer to the ORTECH Fact Sheet located here.

General Approvals Process Questions

Q:  Are there any exemptions from approval requirements?
 
A:  Yes. Section 9 (3) of the Ontario Environmental Protection Act, R. S. O. 1990, (the EPA) and O. Reg. 524/98 specify the (limited) types of equipment, activities, and operations that are exempt from needing an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA).  These exemptions include things such as equipment used for food and beverage preparation at retail locations, low capacity natural gas comfort heating systems, and items associated with low occupancy dwellings.

In general, these activities are also exempt from needing a registration on the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) as well.

Q:  Does the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) charge any fees?

A:  Yes.

For the ECA process, the MOECC requires that both an administrative process fee and a technical review fee be included with any application. This fee must be included (paid) with the submission of the application and not after the ECA has been issued. The fee amount is generally determined based on the number, size, and nature of the air & noise sources at a facility.

For the EASR process, the MOECC requires that a fee of $1,190 be paid before they will issue the confirmation of registration.

Q:  What happens if I have both EASR eligible activities and sources requiring an ECA at my facility?

A:  This is a very common occurrence. When this happens, the facility can choose to either complete both the ECA and the EASR processes, or instead submit a “section 20.18 order request” which, if granted, would allow the EASR eligible activities to be included in the ECA process.

ECA & ESDM Report Related Questions

Q:  How does my facility show compliance with the MOECC standards? Is outdoor monitoring involved?

Compliance is demonstrated by preparing an Emissions Summary and Dispersion Modelling (ESDM) report meeting the requirements of O. Reg. 419/05. This report includes an estimation of the emissions released from the facility and predicts the off-property concentrations using a computer program called a “dispersion model.” The model results are compared against applicable standards to show compliance.  It is not practical to show compliance using off-property monitoring, since this can only be done at a limited number of locations for a limited period of time and is quite expensive. Compliance must be demonstrated at all points off property under a large range of meteorological conditions which necessitates the use of a model over a monitoring program. It should be noted that O. Reg. 419/05 considers a modelled or exceedance of a standard to have the same impact as a monitored or measured exceedance for most contaminants. 

Q:  How are emissions from my facility quantified? Will sampling and analysis be required?

A: There are several methods that might be used to estimate emissions. Site specific sampling, while potentially providing the most accurate estimate, is also very expensive and can drive the cost of the approval project up substantially. Generally, more conservative estimates are made based on emission trends published in literature (called “emission factors”) if available. Emission factors are often derived from sampling results at similar sources. Emissions may also be estimated using engineering principles and process information, or a materials mass balance. The general approach is to start with the assessment with cheaper, but more conservative methods to estimate emissions and move towards more accurate methods if required. This approach helps ORTECH control the costs of the project. If source sampling is required, ORTECH maintains one of the largest and most experienced teams in Canada to provide assistance.[TL1] 

Q:  What happens after I submit an ECA Application?

A:  Once submitted, the MOECC first screens the application for completeness. After screening, the MOECC issues an “Acknowledgment Letter” which confirms their receipt of the application.  In this letter, the MOECC occasionally requests additional information or application fees that they will require.

With a few exceptions, a notice regarding the application will be posted on Ontario’s Environmental Registry (http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/) for a minimum of 45 days for public review and comment.

After screening, the application will be assigned to a queue where it awaits a technical review from MOECC engineers.  Once the technical review process begins, the MOECC engineer will typically contact ORTECH to resolve and questions or concerns that they have with the submission.  Once the MOECC engineer is satisfied, the MOECC will proceed to issue the ECA.  The MOECC may or may not provide the applicant with the opportunity to review the draft.

Q:  How long does it take for the MOECC to issue an ECA?

A:  The time it takes the MOECC to make a decision on an ECA application varies.  At present, most ECAs are issued within one to two years of application submission.

Q:  I have my ECA - do I need to do anything else? What if I need to modify my process or equipment?

A:  An ECA will generally contain terms and conditions requiring that maintenance and complaint tracking procedures be put into place. Upon receipt of an ECA, the holder should review the conditions carefully and make sure that they prepare any documents and implement any procedures required.

A typical ECA does not cover any modifications. If, after receiving an ECA, the holder wishes to add or modify sources at their facility, an amendment application must be submitted. The exception to this is if the ECA includes “Limited Operational Flexibility” (LOF) conditions. These conditions allow certain modifications to be made without an ECA amendment. Contact ORTECH to learn more about ECAs with LOF.

EASR Related Questions

Q:  Is there any hard-copy (paper) alternative to completing the EASR process or submitting a “section 20.18 order request?”

A: Unfortunately no. At present, there is no paper route to registering on the EASR or requesting a 20.18 order. These items must be completed on the Service Ontario website using an ONe-Key account that is registered with the MOECC.

Q:  I have received a confirmation of registration from the MOECC. Do I need to do anything else?

A: Yes.  Once registered, it must be ensured that the activity continues to conform to EASR eligibility requirements and performance requirements. Certain activities also have certain record keeping requirements (for example, maintenance logs) that must be complied with on an on-going basis.  Finally, the registration information submitted must be kept up-to-date. For example, if a company where to change its head office address, this information would need to be updated.

Q:  Once registered on the EASR, can I make changes to my activity?

A: Yes. Modifications to the registered activity are permitted as long as the activity continues to conform to the EASR eligibility and performance requirements.