Ontario: a new Toxics Reduction Act?

By ,

Under Federal law, companies must disclose the pollutants they release, but they don’t have to report the quantities of toxic chemicals used or develop a reduction plan.

But now Ontario has introduced Bill 167 — the Toxics Reduction Act. If adopted, it will be the first province to require that big companies meet new tracking and reporting requirements on their use and release of toxic substances, and plan for toxic use reduction.

The proposed Act would apply to facilities that (1) belong to certain sectors (i.e. manufacturing and mining), (2) have a prescribed number of employees at the facility, (3) use or produce a toxic substance in excess of amounts specified by regulation, and (4) meet any other criteria prescribed by regulations. Details here.

To avoid duplication in NPRI reporting, draft regulations would define toxic substances thresholds similar to federal ones.

If all goes according to plan, the list of toxic substances targeted by the proposed legislation would come into effect in two phases, again in a manner consistent with federal NPRI reporting requirements and timelines.

Intriguingly, nothing in the draft bill forces companies to act on those plans. But the incentive to act may lie elsewhere. Ontario manufacturers are increasingly keen to comply with expected European Union regulations, which will place restrictions on products imported into the EU that contain certain hazardous chemicals. The proposed legislation should help in this regard. So far, environmental and health groups are applauding Ontario’s initiative.

A draft list of some 45 hazardous substances will be made available for public consultation.