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ERA's Environmental Compliance Management Blog

Regulatory Compliance Update: Canadian Toxics Reductions Act

Posted by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

Environmental compliance reporting update for TRA

Following the announcement in the Canadian Gazette regarding Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reporting, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has issued a second notice to Canadian manufacturers, this time about the Toxic Reduction Act.

The Canadian Ministry of the Environment has issued a press release today informing owners and operators of facilities subject to the Toxics Reduction Act & Ontario Regulation 455/09 that they are now required to use Environment Canada’s electronic reporting tool “Single Window”.

At the time of the notice, the new Single Window system (which was formerly known as OWNERS) was made available online. Reporters can now begin to enter their data into the system, and reporters should note that the deadline for the submission of Toxic Substance Reduction plan summaries is December 31, 2012.

More about the Toxic Reduction Act

The Toxic Reduction Act is designed to help manufacturers in certain regulated industries to improve their processes and materials so as to generate less toxic and hazardous waste. The Toxic Reduction Act (TRA) requires facilities to track and report the use, generation, and release of toxic substances, as well as plan for the reduction of each toxic substance. Demonstrating compliance with the TRA involves preparing a toxic reduction plan along with a summary and providing reports on the progress of those plans as they are implemented in the facility.

Note that the Toxic reduction plan summary is what actually gets submitted to the Ministry of Environment and must be made public on the internet. The actual reduction plan should stay within the facility so that it can be implemented. Note that it is not mandatory to actually follow the toxic reduction plan you have written - however the annual toxic emissions reports will also be made publically available, which means facilities are held accountable for living up to the plans they have set.

Who is Affected?

Only certain facilities are affected by the TRA and need to submit a plan summary. These are all facilities that must submit a National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) and:

  • Are identified by a NAICS code commencing with 31, 32, or 33 – the sector codes for manufacturing.
  • Or have a NAICS code starting with 212, which is the sector code for mining (except oil and gas), but only if the mineral processing at the facility involves the use of chemicals to separate, concentrate, smelt, or refine metallic or non-metallic minerals from ore.

Some facilities can become exempt from the Toxic Reduction Act if they consistently demonstrate emission levels below the thresholds included in the NPRI regulations for three consecutive years.

Sources: Ministry of Environment Newsroom, Toxic Reduction Act 2009 

Electronic Compliance Reporting

Both the Canadian Ministry of the Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are pushing to make all environmental compliance reporting electronic and online.  This change can be both positive and negative for the actual reporters, however.

Electronic reporting and submissions are definitely easier and faster than the old fashioned pen and paper method, so most reporters stand to save a good many hours on their reporting. Plus, electronic reporting tools like the Canadian “Single Window” system ensure that all reports are submitted in the proper format and many have built in QA/QC to protect reporters from typos that could affect their compliance.

That being said, as with any change, there is bound to be some confusion. This is evident in the constant upgrades being down to environmental e-reporting tools (like the switch from OWNERS to Single Window), which means every year there could be something new to adapt to when it comes time to report online.

We recently asked the readers of this blog to give their opinions about mandatory electronic reporting, and - as expected - the overall impression was that it could save time and effort, but regulators had to be wary about making the tools user friendly, otherwise they’d just be switching one kind of struggle for another.

You can read the full article here, and please feel free to chime in on the discussion.

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Alex Chamberlain

About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog

Topics: Environmental Compliance & Data Management