Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 152, Number 17: Regulations Repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations

April 28, 2018

Statutory authority
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

Sponsoring department
Department of the Environment

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)

Issues

The Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act were established 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). The Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 were subsequently established to limit the release of mercury into air from chlor-alkali facilities using the mercury cell process.

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 Release 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.footnote1 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. Given the implementation of this general prohibition and the fact that it will effectively prevent any future operation of chlor-alkali mercury cell facilities in Canada, the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations can be repealed as well.

Background

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 g of mercury liquid effluent per tonne of chlorine produced by any chlor-alkali facility and a daily limit of 1.68 kg of mercury release per facility into ambient air. In addition, both regulations 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 (sodium hydroxide), and hydrogen through the electrolysis of sodium chloride.footnote2 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.footnote3

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 or membrane cell technologies. The use of diaphragm cell or membrane cell technologies does not involve the deposit or release of mercury in effluents, emissions, solid wastes, or products.

Objectives

The proposed Regulations Repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations (the proposed repealing Regulations) would repeal the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations. The proposed repealing Regulations would also remove one regulatory title from the Minister of the Environment’s portfolio.

Description

The proposed repealing Regulations would repeal the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations.

The proposed repealing Regulations are accompanied by consequential amendments to the Regulations Designating Regulatory Provisions for Purposes of Enforcement (Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999) [the Designation Regulations]. The Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations are listed as item 2 in the schedule to the Designation Regulations, and thus the proposed Regulations Amending the Regulations Designating Regulatory Provisions for Purposes of Enforcement (Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999) would repeal that item to reflect the repeal of the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations.

“One-for-One” Rule

The proposed repealing Regulations would reduce the number of federal environmental regulations, removing one regulatory title from the Minister’s portfolio under the “One-for-One” Rule. Further, these proposed repealing Regulations would not result in any administrative impacts on businesses or any other stakeholders.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply to the proposed repealing Regulations as they are not expected to impact any stakeholders.

Consultation

The proposed 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.

Rationale

The Government of Canada is concurrently repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Liquid Effluent Regulations, which were made as an exemption to the general prohibition under the Fisheries Act. The removal of this 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. Therefore, the control of releases of mercury into air from chlor-alkali facilities using the mercury cell process is no longer required.

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 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, which is a legally binding instrument. Given the implementation of the general prohibition under the Fisheries Act, the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 can be repealed as well by the proposed repealing Regulations. Since no chlor-alkali facilities employing the mercury cell process exist in Canada, the proposed 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 proposed repealing Regulations would come into force on the day on which they are registered. There are no related service standards, and no implementation strategy specific to the proposed repealing Regulations is necessary given that they are not expected to impact any stakeholders.

Contacts

Contacts

Nathalie Morin
Director
Chemical Production Division
Industrial Sectors, Chemicals, and Waste Directorate
Environmental Protection Branch
Department of the Environment
351 Saint-Joseph Boulevard
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3
Email:
ec.pgpc-dppc-cmp-cpd.ec@canada.ca
Matthew Watkinson
Director
Regulatory Analysis and Valuation Division
Economic Analysis Directorate
Strategic Policy Branch
Department of the Environment
200 Sacré-Cœur Boulevard
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3
Email:
ec.darv-ravd.ec@canada.ca
PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT

PROPOSED REGULATORY TEXT

Notice is given, pursuant to subsection 332(1)footnotea of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 footnoteb, that the Governor in Council, pursuant to subsection 93(1) of that Act, proposes to make the annexed Regulations Repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations.

Any person may, within 60 days after the date of publication of this notice, file with the Minister of the Environment comments with respect to the proposed Regulations or a notice of objection requesting that a board of review be established under section 333 of that Act and stating the reasons for the objection. All comments and notices must cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to the Chemical Production Division, Department of the Environment, Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3 (fax: 819-938-4218; email: ec.pgpc-dppc-cmp-cpd.ec@canada.ca).

A person who provides information to the Minister of the Environment may submit with the information a request for confidentiality under section 313 of that Act.

Ottawa, April 19, 2018

Jurica Čapkun
Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council

Regulations Repealing the Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations

Repeal

1 The Chlor-Alkali Mercury Release Regulations footnote4 are repealed.

Coming into Force

2 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are registered.