Regulations Repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations: SOR/2018-80
Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 152, Number 9
April 23, 2018
P.C. 2018-434 April 20, 2018
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsection 36(5) of the Fisheries Act footnote a, makes the annexed Regulations Repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations.
Regulations Repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations
1 The Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations footnote 1 are repealed.
Coming into Force
2 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.
REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT
(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)
The Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act were implemented to authorize the deposit of mercury into water from chlor-alkali facilities using the mercury cell process up to a prescribed daily limit. In particular, these regulations were made as an exemption to the prohibition, set out in subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, of any deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish (referred to as the general prohibition under the Fisheries Act).
Chlor-alkali facilities employing the mercury cell process no longer exist or operate in Canada. There is no expectation that a resumption of such operations will occur any time in the future, given that the mercury cell process technology is being phased out worldwide and replaced by new and alternative production processes that do not involve the deposit or release of mercury. The Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations no longer serve any purpose since there is no longer a need in Canada to regulate chlor-alkali facilities using the mercury cell process.
In addition, Canada is a party to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (the Minamata Convention) which prohibits the use of mercury or mercury compounds in several industrial processes including chlor-alkali production facilities. footnote 2 The repeal of the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations will help support the federal government in complying with its international obligations under the Minamata Convention, since any production of chlor-alkali employing the mercury cell process will be subject to the general prohibition under the Fisheries Act.
The Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act, and the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, came into effect in 1972 and 1978, respectively. The objectives of these regulations have been to limit the amount of mercury effluent deposited into water and to control mercury emissions to ambient air from any chlor-alkali facility using the mercury cell process, respectively. Together, these two regulations established a daily limit of 2.5 grams of mercury liquid effluent per tonne of chlorine produced by any chlor-alkali facility and a daily limit of 1.68 kilograms of mercury release per facility into ambient air. In addition, these regulations together required facilities to conduct daily measurements of the amount of mercury deposited and released into water and air, and banned the direct release of mercury into ambient air from tanks.
Traditionally, in Canada, chlor-alkali facilities have used mercury cell, diaphragm cell, or membrane cell technologies to produce chlorine, caustic soda, and hydrogen through the electrolysis of sodium chloride.footnote 3 Chlorine and caustic soda are substances used in various industrial applications including the production of soaps, detergents, plastics, glass, petrochemicals and fertilizers. All chlor-alkali facilities use the same three basic raw materials for production: brine, water, and electricity. For all three technological processes, chloride ions are oxidized and chlorine is formed during the electrolysis process. footnote 4
These two regulations controlled the deposit and release of mercury from chlor-alkali facilities. They were intended to limit the negative impacts to human health and to the environment and to respond to public concerns. Human exposure to mercury, usually through the consumption of contaminated fish or fish-eating mammals, can result in damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system. The contamination of water can result in animals, usually fish, experiencing early death, reduced reproduction, slower growth and development, and abnormal behaviour.
Even though chlorine and caustic soda are still manufactured in Canada, chlor-alkali mercury cell facilities are no longer operating. The last facility in Canada employing the mercury cell process closed in 2008. As mercury cell process technology becomes outdated and phased out worldwide, the production process is being replaced with diaphragm cell and membrane cell technologies. The use of diaphragm cell and membrane cell technologies does not involve the deposit or release of mercury in effluents, emissions, solid wastes, or products.
The Regulations Repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations (the repealing Regulations) repeal the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations, thereby removing the exemption from the general prohibition under the Fisheries Act with respect to the deposit of mercury effluent into water frequented by fish. The repealing Regulations also remove one regulatory title from the Minister of the Environment’s portfolio.
The repealing Regulations repeal the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations.
The repealing Regulations reduce the number of federal environmental regulations, removing one regulatory title from the Minister’s portfolio under the “One-for-One” Rule. Further, these repealing Regulations will not result in any administrative impacts to businesses or any other stakeholders.
Small business lens
The small business lens does not apply to the repealing Regulations, as they are not expected to impact any stakeholders.
The repealing Regulations are not expected to result in stakeholder opposition as no chlor-alkali facility using the mercury cell process has operated in Canada since 2008. Further, relevant stakeholders were informed and engaged with respect to the future global prohibition of chlor-alkali production employing the mercury cell process during negotiations relating to the text of the Minamata Convention. As a result, an exemption from publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I, has been granted for the repealing Regulations.
Through this regulatory action, the Government of Canada is repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations which were made as an exemption to the general prohibition under the Fisheries Act. Removing the exemption from the general prohibition under the Fisheries Act will effectively prevent any future operation of chlor-alkali mercury cell facilities in Canada by prohibiting the deposit of mercury effluent into water bodies frequented by fish.
The potential risk of chlor-alkali mercury cell plants operating in Canada in the future is also expected to be minimized by the ongoing phase-out of mercury cell technology worldwide, as well as the availability of cost-effective and more environmentally-friendly alternatives. In addition, provincial and territorial governments are able to prevent the opening of chlor-alkali mercury cell facilities in their respective jurisdictions. This prevention can be exercised through the use of existing facility approval systems, environmental impact assessment legislation, and construction and operating permit systems.
The repealing Regulations will help support the federal government in complying with its international obligations under the Minamata Convention which is a legally binding instrument. Since no chlor-alkali facilities employing the mercury cell process exist in Canada, the repealing Regulations are not expected to impact any industry stakeholders, and they are not expected to introduce any administrative or compliance costs to businesses, Canadians, the federal government, or any other stakeholder.
Implementation, enforcement and service standards
The repealing Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered. There are no related service standards, and no implementation strategy specific to the repealing Regulations is necessary given that they are not expected to impact any stakeholders.
Since the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations are being repealed, the operation of any future chlor-alkali mercury cell facility in Canada is no longer exempt from the general prohibition under the Fisheries Act, which bans the deposit of any deleterious substance, including mercury, into water frequented by fish.
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