Equipment Exemptions for ECA or EASR

I own a commercial development—do I need an environmental approval (ECA or EASR)?

By: Giulia Celli

The answer to this question depends on several factors such as the equipment you have installed, the location of the equipment and the potential for any environmental impacts.  Let’s back up and provide a bit of context.  The Ontario Government’s environmental rules say that if your business emits any contaminants to the air, you must comply with the regulation however, there are exemptions to this rule.  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) or an Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) registration. These exemptions include low capacity natural gas comfort heating systems, and standby power systems. Systems that you would generally find in a commercial development.

For example, an HVAC system that meets the following criteria is likely to be exempt:

·         Each combustion unit uses only natural gas, propane or both natural gas and propane as fuel, and

·         The thermal input rating of each combustion unit is not greater than 10.5 million kilojoules per hour.

·         If the HVAC system includes a cooling tower, drift loss from the cooling tower is controlled by drift eliminators.

ECA infographic.jpg

And a standby power system that meets the following criteria is likely to be exempt:

·         The system is used and operated only during power outages or for testing or performing maintenance on the system;

·         The standby power system uses only one or more of the following as fuel: biodiesel, diesel, natural gas, and propane;

·         Each exhaust stack that is part of the standby power system is oriented vertically (and not obstructed by a rain cap);

·         Each generation unit that is part of the standby power system and that uses diesel or biodiesel as fuel, must meet, at a minimum, the Tier 1 Emission Standards set out in Table 1 of 40 CFR 89.112 (United States)

·         Each generation unit that is part of the standby power system and that uses propane or natural gas as fuel, must have a maximum discharge of 9.2 grams of nitrogen oxides per kilowatt hour

Other exemptions include things such as equipment used for food and beverage preparation at retail locations, items associated with low occupancy dwellings, some mobile equipment, and more. To complicate matters, the equipment may be exempt from requiring a permit but the facility itself is still required to meet this standard from the EPA:

“…despite any other provision of this Act or the regulations, a person shall not discharge a contaminant or cause or permit the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment, if the discharge causes or may cause an adverse effect.” 

For commercial developments in multi-tenant buildings this general provision of the EPA can create some issues when air intakes are not sufficiently separated from equipment which would be otherwise exempt from obtaining an ECA or EASR permit.   

For due diligence, it is recommended to have all equipment that emits any contaminants (including noise and odour) to the air assessed for compliance. It is recommended that a letter from a qualified person stating that the facility is in compliance with Ontario regulations is kept with the facility.

If you have any questions about this post, please reach out to Giulia Celli at