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MOE explains its new Noise Guideline, NPC 300

Last month, the Ministry of the Environment’s new noise guideline came into force: NPC 300 – the new Environmental Noise Guideline: Stationary and Transportation Sources – Approval and Planning. It replaces the three old guidelines, LU-131, NPC-205, and NPC-232. NPC 300 includes new mitigation options, definitions, and a new land use class.

Last week we had the opportunity to attend the MOE’s explanation of the new guideline for industry professionals. Here is the excellent presentation given by Alice Verbaas: Nov. 2013 MOE Presentation re Noise Guideline.

Many questions revolved around the new Class 4 area which sets less stringent noise criteria  for new development in areas with existing stationary sources, i.e. new residential development near existing industries. For example, the sound level limits allow noise reduction credit to be given for closed windows in buildings with a ventilation system (e.g. central air), and so allow higher decibel levels outdoors.

Developers can apply to their municipality for a Class 4 designation to allow them to construct new sensitive land uses in proximity to existing, lawfully established and approved stationary sources. Municipalities could also initiate the process. The MOE does not intend that industries will be able to take the initiative to have an area designated Class 4. Thus, NPC 300 is not intended to offer any solution for existing land use conflicts, or for pre-1986 noise sources that used to be grandfathered and do not now hold an environmental compliance approval.

Similarly, the MOE does not intend Class 4 to be applicable on properties with existing or already zoned noise sensitive land uses(s) or Class 3 (rural) areas. However, the final decision on which areas are to be Class 4 rests with land use planning authorities, not with the MOE. This may allow municipalities to be more generous in their use of Class 4 than the MOE currently expects.

The discussion also showed that a number of grey areas remain in the interpretation of the guideline. The MOE intends to watch carefully to see how the guideline is used, and to consider further amendments later if required.

NPC 300 does not address sound / vibrations from blasting, wind turbines and landfills, which have their own guidance.

By Dianne Saxe and Meredith James

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