1.05.03 - “Keep Ontario beautiful by […] supporting and enforcing our air quality programs”
In 2018, the Ontario government amended Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act to exempt sulphur dioxide “flaring” incidents at petroleum refineries from meeting the province’s air quality standards. Since the government eliminated oversight of this air pollutant, the promise of supporting and enforcing air quality programs is considered broken. Furthermore, the government was not forthcoming about reports or regulations to support a First Nations community that was subject to extreme levels of air pollution. Finally, The 2021 Office of the Auditor General’s Report finds no evidence of the development of policies or frameworks requiring regular reporting of progress in implementing its environmental strategies, nor is there evidence of enforcing programs that limit impacts on air quality (see more here). As a result, this promise is considered broken.
“The Environment Ministry did not agree to develop and implement policies and frameworks requiring regular reporting to the public on progress in implementing its environmental strategies, policies and plans.”
“In 2017, the provincial government, then led by Kathleen Wynne, assured the Aamjiwnaang First Nation that it would be included in the project, which the government said would ‘improve the relationship with Ontario’s Indigenous communities.’ The Ford government also reiterated its importance. […] While the Ministry of the Environment has kept the First Nation regularly updated on the project, until last week it withheld key air pollution data informing the health study.”
“Last fall, the province quietly changed a regulation under Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act to exempt sulphur dioxide ‘flaring’ incidents at petroleum refineries from meeting the province’s air quality standards. Flaring incidents — in which refineries burn off excess crude oil products that cannot be processed — emit large quantities of sulphur dioxide in a short period of time. The flaring rules had been tightened by the previous Liberal government in March 2018. ‘The reality is right now there’s no air quality standard that applies to the flaring of acid gas at refineries,’ said [Elaine] MacDonald, [healthy communities director for Ecojustice, a Toronto-based environmental law charity,] in an interview. ‘So communities are vulnerable to spikes and high concentrations of sulphur dioxide from facilities flaring acid gas. And there’s no enforcement that can be done to prevent that from occurring, because they’ve just exempted that completely.’”