North

N.W.T. gov't wants to charge companies for air contaminants

The N.W.T. government wants to charge mining, oil and gas, and transportation companies for going over a prescribed yearly limit for air contaminants.

Air quality in the N.W.T. is largely unregulated: Department of Environment and Natural Resources

The N.W.T.'s Department of Environment and Natural Resources hopes a draft bill allowing for new air quality regulations will be introduced in the legislative assembly this fall.

The N.W.T. government wants to charge mining, oil and gas, transportation and other companies for going over a prescribed yearly limit for air contaminants.

The change, which is being proposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, would force companies to pay fees for going over emission limits for dust, fumes, mist, smoke, particulate matter, vapours, gases, odours, odorous substances, acids, soot and grime.

Under the proposed "N.W.T. Air Regulatory Framework," large operations like mines would have to apply for an air permit and report on whether they're meeting the conditions of that permit — much like companies already do for land and water use.

While the initial set of regulations would fall short of capping dust and greenhouse gas emissions, future phases could see that happen, says Lisa Dyer, the territory's director of environment. 

"Air quality has been unregulated in the N.W.T. for many years and we are continually hearing from the public and other stakeholders at hearings that there are concerns about air quality emissions, so we made the commitment to address those concerns," said Dyer.

The commitment was made during public hearings last fall into the expansion of the Ekati diamond mine during which concerns about the spread of dust was a main topic of conversation. 

The first set of regulations will cover air contaminants such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. 

If the sum total of those contaminants measures above 30,000 tonnes per year, companies would have to pay $10 per extra tonne. 

Small operations wouldn't need permits 

Smaller operations, such as wood pellet manufacturers and dry cleaning facilities, would not need a permit but would still have to register with the department. 

The department hopes a draft bill allowing for the new regulations will be introduced in the legislative assembly this fall, and for the minister of environment, Wally Schumann, to sign off on the regulations by spring 2017.

The department is holding a public information session tonight in Yellowknife at 7 p.m. at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre.

People also have until Sept. 16 to write in to the department.

Here's a presentation on the proposed system:

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