Toronto Public Health still has some questions to answer about its proposed, precedent-setting Environmental Reporting and Disclosure Bylaw. For example:1. The City needs to deal explicitly with the fact that many sources of local ambient air pollution are located outside the City, and therefore will not be governed by the bylaw. Are the major sources of each proposed pollutant located within the City? If not, would reducing local emissions have material effects on ambient air quality? If not, what is the health value of reporting them? If they are not a health concern, what is the City’s constitutional justification for requiring businesses to report them?2. The proposed exemptions mean that the City will not be obtaining data on the major local sources of some contaminants. For example, if road dust and vehicles (which are exempt) are the principal local source of PM 2.5, why require businesses in the City to report minor emissions of it? Would reducing emissions of PM 2.5 from local businesses have material effects on ambient concentrations of PM 2.5? If not, are such emissions truly a health concern?3. The proposal does not clearly distinguish between information that is to be reported to the public (Community Right to Know) and information that the City wishes to collect but keep private for emergency response purposes.4. What is the City’s constitutional basis for requiring reporting of substances that are “used in” but not “released from” a facility? Is the City attempting to collect information on indoor air in workplaces? If so, what is the regulatory gap it is attempting to fill, and why? Doesn’t Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act already provide adequate protection in workplaces? There are also major security issues associated with distributing such information to the public.5. What balance will the City strike between cost and accuracy? Will inexpensive rough estimates of emissions be sufficiently useful? Or will small businesses need to retain air emission experts to measure and calculate their emissions? If so, has the City evaluated the cost and availability of such consultants?6. Why must every emitter report every year? Perhaps smaller emitters could report less frequently, every two or three years.7. The proposal to collect information on byproducts (not just direct releases) seems cumbersome, complex, costly and confusing, especially since other combustion sources (vehicles, space heating) will be exempt. Would simpler information on combustion and fuels provide the City with adequate information?8. Will organizations already reporting to the province or federal government have to separately report the same information to the City? If so, why?9. How will the City and the MOE coordinate their overlapping requirements relating to air pollution?10. There is a substantial disconnect between the information now available on websites and what that information actually means in terms of human health. Will the City be providing educational material on likely health issues associated with pollutants (including unknowns), known hazards of specific substances, how to report emissions/discharges, and how to access and interpret the reports? Does the City intend to relate the emissions information it will collect to changes in ambient concentrations of air pollutants, which may be more directly related to health?11. How will the City help the public understand the risk posed by emissions from reporting sources in comparison to the risks posed by exempt sources and those outside the City? How will the City deal with the gaps in knowledge about the health effects of chronic exposure to pollutants, and to a chemical soup of multiple substances? How will the City keep all this material up-to-date?12. How will the proposed bylaw protect trade secrets and other proprietary information?13. Will the by-law have teeth?14. How much will this initiative cost the City to implement and maintain? Does the City have the necessary resources to comply at its own facilities, and to provide compliance assistance and enforcement for other organizations?15. It would be helpful to provide more details of the financial, technical and educational resources the City will provide to businesses to encourage pollution prevention. Will the City also honour those who do implement pollution prevention?16. Has the City considered whether this initiative will affect property values in more polluted areas? Do communities in such areas understand and support the initiative?So far, there are more questions than answers. We look forward to hearing some answers from the City later this year. To read the entire Ontario Bar Association comment on Toronto’s Environmental Bylaw, click here.
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