Environment and Energy Bulletin Air Quality Regulation: Canadian and BC Developments

  • October 01, 2012
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Over the last 35 years, the issue of air quality has become a predominant global environmental concern as a result of increased urbanization, industrialization, a growing demand for energy in all forms, and the world’s reliance upon vehicles as the primary mode of transportation.

Governments in Europe and North America took the initial steps at understanding and eventually regulating air quality in the 1960’s and 1970’s, with Canada implementing a formal regulatory approach in 1999 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Since then, management of air quality has evolved in Canada and in British Columbia, which has its own provincial regulatory regime governing air pollution, including delegating responsibility to Metro Vancouver with respect to air quality in this region.

Over the last 35 years, the issue of air quality has become a predominant global environmental concern as a result of increased urbanization, industrialization, a growing demand for energy in all forms, and the world’s reliance upon vehicles as the primary mode of transportation.

Governments in Europe and North America took the initial steps at understanding and eventually regulating air quality in the 1960’s and 1970’s, with Canada implementing a formal regulatory approach in 1999 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Since then, management of air quality has evolved in Canada and in British Columbia, which has its own provincial regulatory regime governing air pollution, including delegating responsibility to Metro Vancouver with respect to air quality in this region.

Both BC and Metro Vancouver have invested significant efforts at improving air quality, with encouraging results. According to the BC Lung Association, BC is meetings its air quality objectives, and Metro Vancouver currently experience good regional air quality relative to most other urban areas in North America. As air quality improves, achieving further gains is getting harder and more expensive.

The Canadian Council of Minister of the Environment (CCME) is meeting this month to consider a package of recommendations on air zones and a process to address base level industrial emissions requirements. In this month’s Environment and Energy Bulletin, the Business Council of British Columbia makes several recommendations with respect to air quality management in the province:

  • BCBC would like to see stepped-up provincial participation in the CCME process, active outreach and collaboration by policy-makers and regulators with the business community, and consideration of the costs and benefits of the next unit of quality improvement. This will ensure that any new national air quality standards reflect BC’s economic interests.
  • British Columbia should reclaim jurisdiction for setting air quality standards in Greater Vancouver, as it makes no sense to assign this responsibility to a municipal level of government that only has jurisdiction of a portion of the larger regional air shed.
  • In BC, 2/3 of ambient emissions are from non-industrial sources; therefore, a preoccupation with industrial air emissions seems out of balance with their relative contribution to air quality. Further, most BC industries that are point-source emitters are already stringently regulated under operating permits. Large businesses are continuously modernizing their facilities in an effort to reduce their impact on the local environment.