Environmental, Health and Safety Update

Ontario

Environmental Commissioner releases first volume of annual report

On September 19, 2012, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner released volume 1 of his 2011/2012 annual report, Losing Touch, to the Ontario Legislature. Volume 1 deals with the compliance of (among others) three ministries – Environment, Energy and Natural Resources – with the procedural requirements of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR), particularly regarding whether those ministries provided notice of and conducted consultation on certain environmentally significant decisions in accordance with the EBR. Volume 2, to be released later, is expected to focus on how these ministries have upheld the purposes of the EBR and their individual Statement of Environmental Values during the reporting year.

For further information, please see Losing Touch.


Ministry of Environment proposes changing EASR

As reported in Torys’ October 2011 EH&S Bulletin, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) established the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR), an online registry for certain activities that the MOE identifies as low risk and that no longer require an environmental compliance approval, provided that the activities meet the applicable requirements and are registered on the EASR. The MOE recently announced that it is proposing to allow registration of the following additional activities and facilities on the EASR:  ground-mounted solar facilities with a name plate capacity between 10 and 500 kilowatts; commercial lithographic, screen and digital printing; and non-hazardous waste transportation systems. The MOE also proposes amending the existing EASR requirements for standby power systems.

For further information, please see the Environmental Registry.


Ministry of Labour launches fall safety blitzes

The Ministry of Labour (MOL) is launching fall safety blitzes targeted at workplace hazards across the province. The blitzes are part of the MOL’s enforcement strategy to increase compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations. During the blitzes, MOL inspectors will assess the condition and maintenance of certain safety equipment, worker training, the use of safety equipment, and other potential health and safety hazards to help prevent workplace injuries. In particular, the currently scheduled safety blitzes are as follows:

  • September to October 2012 – Supervision at construction sites;

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  • October to November 2012 – Machine guarding hazards and repetitive strain injuries in manufacturing and industrial workplaces; infection prevention and control in healthcare workplaces;

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  • November to December 2012 – Transfer of ore in underground mines.

For more information, please see the MOL news release.


MOL imposes a new workplace posting obligation

Under the OHSA, employers are required to post in the workplace, among other documents, the awareness poster Health and Safety at Work – Prevention Starts Here. The poster summarizes workers’ health and safety rights and the corresponding responsibilities of employers and supervisors. Effective October 1, 2012, MOL inspectors will be enforcing this requirement.

To download the poster or for more information, please see the MOL news release.


Canada

Federal government releases regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

On September 12, 2012, the federal government released the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-fired Generation of Electricity Regulations (SOR/2012 - 167). Over time, these regulations will require certain Canadian coal-fired electricity generation units to meet an annual average emissions-intensity standard of 420 tonnes of carbon dioxide per gigawatt hour. This performance standard will apply to new units commissioned after July 1, 2015, and to certain units that are considered to have reached the end of their "useful life" (which the regulations determine is based primarily on the unit’s commissioning date). Operators of new and end-of-life units that incorporate technology for carbon capture and storage may apply for a temporary exemption from the performance standard that would remain in effect until 2025, provided that certain implementation milestones are met. The federal government has indicated that equivalency agreements with provinces, under which the Regulations would be replaced by the provincial regime, are being negotiated or discussed with Saskatchewan and Alberta, and a draft equivalency agreement has been developed with Nova Scotia.

For further information, please see Environment Canada’s backgrounder.


The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment provides risk assessment guidance for contaminated sites

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has released drafts of the first three volumes of its Guidance Manual for Environmental Site Characterization in Support of Environmental and Human Health Risk Assessment. The manual is intended to provide a consistent approach to sampling and analyzing complex environmental matrices in support of environmental and human health risk assessment at contaminated sites. These provide general guidance for carrying out risk assessments, as well as suggested operating procedures. The final volume, which is expected to be available soon for public comment, will detail the analytical methods applicable to assessing contaminated sites.

For further information, please see the CCME website.


Alberta

Government releases first regional plan under Alberta’s Land-use Framework

On August 22, 2012, the government of Alberta publicly released the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP), which covers approximately 93,212 square kilometres of northeastern Alberta. The LARP includes management frameworks that limit certain environmental impacts on air, land and water quality, and that establish thresholds for further investigation of those impacts. The LARP also provides for the development of a Biodiversity Management Framework by 2013, which will set biodiversity targets for the region’s vegetation, aquatic life and wildlife.

 It will act as a guide for future resource decisions. The LARP is the first of seven anticipated plans formed under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act. According to the government, the LARP is intended to (i) improve integration of industrial activities on the landscape; (ii) encourage timely reclamation of disturbed lands; (iii) manage air and water quality and biodiversity through specified management frameworks to support human and ecosystem needs; (iv) create new and sustainable conservation areas to support local biodiversity; (v) strengthen and develop physical infrastructure to support economic and population growth; (vi) increase opportunities for recreation and active living; and (vii) include Aboriginal peoples in land-use planning.

For further information, please see the LARP.


International

Australia and EU plan to link carbon markets

The government of Australia and the European Union recently announced their agreement to begin linking their respective carbon markets in 2015, which would create the world’s largest integrated emissions-trading market. The agreement would enable entities whose emissions are covered by the Australian system to purchase up to 50% of their emission allowances in Europe, as of the 2015-2016 compliance year. Entities whose emissions are covered by the EU system are expected to be able to purchase allowances from Australia by 2018.

 

 

To discuss these issues, please contact the author(s).

This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

For permission to republish this or any other publication, contact Janelle Weed.

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