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Repeal of the Ontario Toxics Reduction Act, 2009

The Ontario government recently announced that it will repeal the Ontario Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 and revoke its associated regulations on December 31, 2021.

The purpose of the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 is to prevent pollution by reducing the use and creation of toxic substances and inform Ontarians about those substances. Under the statute, industry is required to develop toxic reduction plans, and report publicly each year. Implementation of plans is voluntary.

The decision to revoke the statute was reached by the government following consultation with stakeholders and in keeping with the government’s Ontario Open for Business Action Plan. During the consultation period, the government received a total of 431 comments from various stakeholders.

The reason given by the government for the planned repeal was that the Toxics Reduction Program has not achieved meaningful reductions. The government stated that results indicate an overall reduction of only 0.04% of substances used, created and released for all regulated facilities.

This graph illustrates the number of substances as reported to the Ontario Environment Ministry under the Toxics Reduction Regulations by facilities for 2013

In repealing the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 in 2021, the Ontario government believes that it will eliminate duplication and overlap with the federal government’s Chemicals Management Plan program under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999.

Regulated facilities in Ontario still have to maintain reporting under the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 and its associated regulations until December 31, 2021.

Existing facilities with current plans for substances that meet reporting thresholds are required to report annually on:

  • the amounts of those substances used, created, contained in product; and
  • the progress in reducing those substances.

Until the repeal, facilities can continue to voluntarily amend their plans. Summaries of amended plans must also be made available to the public.

Proposed Changes to Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Program

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation Parks (MOECP) recently issued a proposal that will change the regulation (O. Reg. 455/09) under the Toxics Reduction Act , 2009. Under the proposed regulatory amendments, the following changes would be implemented:

  • facilities with existing toxics reduction plans would no longer be required to conduct reviews of those plans;
  • certain facilities would be exempt from all future planning and reporting obligations for certain substances; and
  • facilities with existing plans would still be obligated to maintain annual reporting requirements.

The proposed exemptions would apply to the following facilities:

  • Facilities that have never planned or reported under the program, but now meet the reporting threshold for one or more toxic substances; or
  • Facilities that have been out of the program for three or more years for a toxic substance, but are coming back into the program because they meet a reporting threshold again; or
  • Facilities that are currently planning and reporting under the program, and now meet the reporting thresholds for a new toxic substance at the facility.

With respect to substances, the proposed exemptions would apply to the following obligations:

  • Creating a toxic reduction plan;
  • Tracking and quantifying toxic substances;
  • Annual Reporting on planned reductions; and
  • Reviewing the toxic reduction plan.

The rationale for the proposed changes to the regulation is that it overlaps with federal reporting requirements. The Ontario Toxics Reduction Program requires industry to report publicly on their use of toxic substances, and identify options to reduce those substances through toxic reduction plans. The Canadian federal Chemicals Management Plan requires industry to reduce the use and/or release of certain toxic substances. The federal approach is more comprehensive than the existing provincial program.

Another rationale for amending the regulation is that the MOECP claims that the Toxics Reduction Program has not achieved meaningful reductions. Preliminary results compiled by the MOECP indicate an overall reduction of 0.04% of substances used, created and released for all regulated facilities.

A costing analysis was carried out by the MOECP in conjunction with the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and it was found that the annual average net savings of this proposal will far exceed the annual average administrative costs.

The MOECP cost analysis estimated that the regulatory proposal will cost current facilities an annual average administrative cost of $818,000 to learn about the changes to the regulations and to continue reporting on existing toxics substances until 2021. These costs are offset by the total annual average administrative net savings of approximately $4 million for all facilities to stop planning and for the program to end in 2021 (when the federal government has completed its chemical assessments and taken action on many toxic substances). All cost analysis was calculated as Average Annual Present Value costs discounted at 2.5% over 10 years.

Toxics Reduction Program Map

The Ontario government maintains a website that shows the locations of facilities subject to the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009, the number of facilities with plans to reduce toxics use, and information on the number of toxics reported. Users of the website can search for for and access information from Ontario facilities that use, create, release, dispose and recycle toxic substances. They can also learn more about these substances and how facilities are taking action to reduce their creation and use to protect the environment and human health. Finally, users of the website can search by location, facility, or public health unit and use the advanced search filters such as year, sector or substance to improve your search results.

Public Comment Period Ends January 20th

The MOECP is accepting public comments to the proposal until January 20th, 2019. Comments can be submitted online or to Michael Friesen of the MOECP (416-314-0131).