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The Ministry of the Environment has released a discussion paper outlining its proposed Toxics Reduction Law, as promised in last year’s Throne Speech. The paper was developed by an expert panel, headed by noted environmental chemist, Miriam Diamond.  They  propose that the new statute should create:

1. Designated (long) lists of toxic substances to be regulated in more detail;
2. Substantial new requirements for all industries handling such toxic substances;
3. Thresholds for the application of the new requirements; and
4. New provincial powers to control toxics in consumer products, which are now regulated by the federal government.

The key new requirements for industry will include:

• Full Materials Accounting for toxic inputs and outputs, whether included in products, released to the air, or discarded as waste;
• Toxics Reduction Plans;
• Reporting to regulators; and
• Public Disclosure.

Materials accounting and the creation of Toxics Reduction Plans will be mandatory, but implementation of the reduction plans will be voluntary. Summaries of the accounts and reduction plans will be made public, which is likely to create pressure for their implementation.

The new rules will be phased in across four groups of substances,  starting with a group of 45 Priority Toxics that are now tracked under the federal National Pollutant Release Inventory.  In addition, information will be collected on 20 little understood substances not presently covered by NPRI. The Ministry suggests that this first phase could commence in 2010. All other NPRI substances plus acetone would be covered in phase 2.  The 20 highest priority non- NPRI substances would be covered in Phase 3;  Phase 4 may address 135 other toxic substances.

The province promises to minimize duplication. However, federal rules such as NPRI and the Hazardous Products Act would continue to apply, as well as provincial requirements such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Municipalities would also have power to impose additional requirements, such as the City of Toronto’s proposed Environmental Reporting and Disclosure bylaw for 25 priority substances.

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