Provincial budget: environmental fees going up more

Here are some excerpts from last week’s Ontario provincial budget, promising further increases in fees relating to the environment. Contaminated sites fees, water taking charges, fees for environmental compliance approvals and for hazardous waste will all go up by almost $10 million. The fees are discussed at the end of the chapter, 2012 Ontario Budget: Chapter I: Transforming Public Services.

“Environmental Fees

The Auditor General and the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services also recommended that greater emphasis be placed on prevention and the polluter-pay principle. This recommendation applies to Ontario’s contaminated sites. The Province also recognizes that those responsible for creating pollution and waste should generally bear the costs of environmental programs and services.

Water Taking Charges Program — Phase 2

Increasing demand and environmental concerns place added pressure on the Province to ensure the sustainable use of water (e.g., to conserve and sustain water resources for present and future generations). By applying a user-pay model, the Water Taking Charges program passes some of the costs of water quantity management programs onto commercial and industrial water users. This also gives businesses an incentive to better conserve water and ensure more efficient and sustainable processes, and creates opportunities for economic development and clean-technology jobs in Ontario.

The first phase of the program was successfully implemented in April 2007, and set a charge of $3.71 per million litres for high-consumption water users such as manufacturers of bottled water, ready-mix concrete and fertilizers. This phase affected approximately 100 facilities in Ontario.

As part of its five-year review of the program, including consultations, the government will review the current charge framework to assess the adequacy of the charge rate and ensure that the program recovers costs as fully as possible.

Implementing Phase 2 of the program will expand the user-pay base and apply the charge to most of the remaining industrial and commercial water users in Ontario. Some of the affected sectors include construction, petroleum, mining, food production and recreational facilities. The charge rate to be paid by Phase 2 facilities will be determined as part of the program review.

It is estimated this initiative will generate $3.5 million in 2013–14, and $6.0 million in 2014–15 and ongoing.

Environmental Compliance Approvals

To move towards full-cost recovery, the government will revise the fee structure for Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECA) and the related Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR). If a business’s activities impact the natural environment (such as by releasing pollutants into the air, onto land or into water), that business needs an approval from the Ministry of the Environment to operate legally in Ontario.

The fee structure for this approvals system has not been revised since 1998. In the past, a business had to apply for multiple approvals for individual processes and pieces of equipment. Today, a business can register on the EASR and/or apply for a single ECA that addresses all of the business’s emissions, discharges and waste.

The government will consult on an updated ECA and EASR fee structure to ensure that it appropriately reflects a new modernized approvals system and to ensure that the program is fully cost-recovered. Additionally, the ministry will establish service standards and provide electronic service delivery that will ensure timely and efficient approvals for businesses.

It is estimated this initiative will generate $3.8 million in 2013–14 and ongoing.

Hazardous Waste Fees

Another environmental fee that will be revised is the Hazardous Waste Fee, which has not been updated since 2002. The government tracks the generation, movement and disposal of hazardous and liquid industrial waste to help ensure a safer and cleaner environment for Ontario. Fees are based in part on manifests (i.e., the record of waste being shipped) and on tonnage of waste generated.

Raising tonnage fees will improve program cost recovery and provide greater incentives to reduce or recycle waste. In addition, the increase in fees will be borne by the larger generators of hazardous waste. The fee for paper manifests will be increased, which will help encourage greater use of the lower-cost electronic manifesting system.

It is estimated this initiative will generate $2.5 million in 2014–15 and ongoing.”