Environmental activists in Saint John says they are pleased with new greenhouse gas rules for New Brunswick's biggest polluters.

The rules require industries, such as Irving Oil Ltd.'s refinery, to submit plans with benchmarks and targets to lower emissions.

Gordon Dalzell, a Saint John clean air advocate, says the new rules are legally binding.

"That's very positive," said Dalzell.

"This is not like a voluntary arrangement or guideline or perhaps you can do it, perhaps you don't have to do it. This plan has to be submitted. 

'It sounds pretty good.' - Leanne Sutton

The guidelines for the new management plan were quietly introduced in July.

Although a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Local Government says industry stakeholders "were aware and involved in the implementation." 

A document on the New Brunswick government's website makes it clear that submission of a greenhouse gas reduction plan is a condition of each industry's approval to operate.

According to Environment Canada, the Irving Oil refinery released 2.99 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air in 2013, the most recent year listed.

Leanne Sutton

Leanne Sutton, of Red Head, says of the new regulations, "It sounds pretty good, if it's done properly."

That rate was fairly constant through the nine previous years, ranging from 3.2 million tonnes in 2004 to 2.8 million tonnes in 2012.

​Leanne Sutton, the chairperson of the Red Head Anthony's Cove Preservation Association, says she can often smell the refinery from her home in Saint John's Red Head neighbourhood.

Sutton says she is cautiously optimistic about the new requirement.

"It sounds pretty good, if it's done properly," said Sutton.

She says she is particularly pleased that each company's greenhouse gas management plan and annual progress reports will be accessible to the public.

Irving Oil did not respond Thursday to a request for comment on the new requirements.