A new regulation aimed at replacing the current Regulation respecting the Quality of the Atmosphere (RQA) was expected for many years. Indeed, almost six years after the publication of a draft of the Clean Air Regulation on November 16, 2005, the Québec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (MSDEP) finally announced, on June 13, 2011, the passage of the new Clean Air Regulation (CAR) which was published in Part 2 of the Gazette officielle du Québec on June 15, 2011. This new regulation is of significance for all industries having activities in Québec which involve air emissions.
The CAR will replace the RQA and will come into force on June 30, 2011. It is provided that, subject to certain exceptions regarding namely bituminous concrete plants, quarries and sandpits, production equipments subject to certain provisions of the Regulation respecting pulp and paper mills, flour mills and fuel burning systems used for domestic heating, this regulation applies to every source of atmospheric contaminants.
The CAR contains significant changes, including the tightening of certain norms included in the RQA and the addition of new norms and obligations with respect to air emissions. More precisely, it provides for, among other things:
- More stringent limit values applicable to particle emissions from certain facilities or activities or certain industrial process including flour mills, distilleries, breweries, fertilizer mixing plants, concrete plants, polyvinyl chloride processing plants, drilling other than the drilling of a water supply well, indoor sandblasting, etc. It is indicated that such new norms are applicable to such activities, facilities or industrial processes in operation on June 30, 2011 as of June 30, 2013;
- New general emission standards for volatile organic compounds emitted into the atmosphere or likely to be emitted during storage or during the use or storage of organic solvents, applicable to certain emission sources in operation on June 30, 2011 as of June 30, 2014;
- New norms and emission limit values applicable notably to aluminum smelters, cement plants, wood processing facilities, petroleum refineries and petrochemical plants, copper or zinc producing plants, fuel burning equipments and incinerators. The dates of application of such norms or such limit values could vary between June 30, 2011 and June 30, 2016 depending on the norm, the activities or installations covered;
- Certain obligations regarding the installation of monitoring equipments applicable to various activities or industrial sectors;
- The obligation for the operator of a petroleum refinery, petrochemical or organic chemical plant or petroleum depot or terminal, subject to certain conditions, to implement an annual plan able to detect and repair any volatile organic compound leak, to be completed not later than June 30, 2016.
The CAR also provides for obligations applicable to certain activities or industrial sectors to perform source emissions testing, to hold registries and to transmit reports to the MSDEP in order to monitor certain emissions.
It provides for new air quality standards, applicable as of June 30, 2011, for the territory of Québec and includes approximately 90 contaminants, including more than 80 new contaminants.
It should be noted that the CAR includes higher penal fines which could vary, in the case of a legal person, from $5,000 to $500,000 for a first offence and from $10,000 to $1,000,000 in the case of a second or subsequent offence.