Over 5 years after its publication in November 2005, the new Clean Air Regulation came into force on June 30, 2011 replacing, subject to applicable transitional measures, the Regulation respecting the Quality of the Atmosphere adopted more than 30 years ago. The Regulation carries great potential costs for the 200 large businesses and 4500 small enterprises impacted. The Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (the MSDEP) estimates that such costs will reach $400 to $600 million over the next 10 years, with the most affected activities being heavy fuel oil users, the pulp and paper and particle board or fibreboard industries, aluminum smelters and steel mills.

THE CLEAN AIR REGULATION SUMMARIZED

The Clean Air Regulation applies to all sources of atmospheric contamination, with certain exceptions that are set forth in the Regulation. It bolsters the air quality standards applicable in all of Québec, with a list now containing 80 contaminants (the previous standards listed 8 contaminants). The air quality standards prohibit the construction or alteration of a source of contamination or an increase in the production of a good or service if it will likely result in an increase in the concentration of a listed contaminant in excess of the limit for that contaminant set forth in the Clean Air Regulation.

More particularly, the Clean Air Regulation provides for:  

  • more stringent standards for the emission of particles by certain operations, including grain processing facilities, distilleries, concrete plants, storage facilities, welding or metal works, indoor sandblasting, preparation, concentration, agglomeration or drying of certain ore or ore concentrates and drilling activities;  
  • more detailed standards for the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), inc luding in the manufacturing and use of paints, the manufacturing of adhesives, printing activities, dry cleaning activities and VOC storage activities;  
  • the reduction, with certain transitional measures, of the allowed sulphur content in fossil fuels used in fuel burning equipment or in an industrial furnace;  
  • more detailed air emission standards for fuel burning equipment or an industrial furnace using wood, wood waste or other materials as fuel;  
  • more stringent air emission standards for aluminum smelters, cement plants, petrochemical refineries, iron ore concentrate plants, copper or zinc producing plants, and processes involving the trea tment of metallic surfaces;  
  • new specific air emission standards a pplicable to wood processing facilities, including particle board or fibreboard manufacturing facilities;  
  • more detailed requirements regarding monitoring equipment and emissions monitoring including the obligation, in certain cases, to provide sampling reports to the MSDEP and to keep records.  

The MSDEP estimates that these new monitoring and record-keeping requirements will require expenses of approximately $50 million, with recurring operation costs to follow.

The transition period for the application of the new Regulation ranges between immediate application and application in June, 2016 depending on the age and type of the operation. Violation of the Clean Air Regulation is punishable by fines ranging between $2,000 and $25,000 for a natural person, and $5,000 and $500,000 for a legal person.

Operations subject to Montréal’s Regulation 90 respecting air quality are not generally subject to the Clean Air Regulation.