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In an unusual move, the City of Toronto has sought and obtained leave to appeal the air certificate of approval issued to an existing cement plant. The plant had been the subject of numerous complaints from local residents, relating to dust and noise. The Ministry of the Environment issued a certificate of approval for the plant, but allowed it to operate and emit noise at times of day contrary to the municipal noise bylaw.

Different levels of government often disagree about the terms of permits issued to private businesses, but it is unusual for them to take the dispute to court. Normally, residents unhappy about provincial permits granted to a neighbouring business must fight the matter themselves. In this case, the City of Toronto made itself the neighbours’ champion before the Environmental Review Tribunal, presumably at no cost to the neighbours. The City successfully persuaded the Tribunal that dust and noise from the plant has caused environmental impacts and that the conditions in the provincial approval may not resolve the problem. The Tribunal agreed,  and granted the City leave to appeal, saying there is too much uncertainty whether the conditions of the certificate would adequately control noise and dust impacts. See Corporation of the City of Toronto v. Dir., Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Review Tribunal, November 2, 2009.

Whatever the impacts suffered by the cement plant neighbours in this case, this is still a surprising use of municipal tax money. I wonder how the City will justify refusing to become involved the next time there is a neighbourhood dispute about dust and noise.

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