Proposed Regulatory Amendments to the General Regulation (O. Reg. 267/03 - General) under the Nutrient Management Act to Support On-Farm Regulated Mixed Anaerobic Digestion Facilities
O. Reg. 267/03
Regulation - LGIC
Bill or Act:
Nutrient Management Act, 2002
Summary of Decision:
As part of Ontario's Open for Business Action Plan, the government is committed to cutting red tape and reducing regulatory burden for all businesses, to lower business operating costs and improve Ontario's competitiveness while continuing to maintain environmental protection. Reducing burden on farmers is a critical part of ensuring rural Ontario is economically vibrant and competitive.
Regulatory amendments to O. Reg. 267/03 were made to create more opportunities for agricultural producers to treat manure and other on-farm anaerobic digestion materials along with larger quantities and additional types of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials in regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facilities (RMADFs). The amendments also enable the economically viable production of biogas for the renewable natural gas market. OMAFRA and MECP have joint responsibility for the NMA and worked together to develop the regulatory amendments.
Expected outcomes of these regulatory changes include:
•Increased opportunities for management of food and organic waste in the circular food economy;
•Increased production of renewable natural gas in Ontario; and
•Increased economic development opportunities for the agri-food sector.
The regulatory changes will:
1.Clarify design and construction requirements to support renewable natural gas production while maintaining environmental protections for neighbours and local communities.
2.Provide greater flexibility in the amount and type of on-farm and off-farm anaerobic digestion materials permitted for use in RMADFs to make the generation of renewable natural gas more effective, efficient, and economical for farmers.
3.Simplify operational requirements regarding the sampling and analysis of received materials to reduce costs and enhance operational flexibility for farmers.
A consequential amendment to Reg. 347 under the Environmental Protection Act was also made to reflect the changes to the numbering of the Schedules in O. Reg. 267/03.
Analysis of Regulatory Impact:
The Government amended O. Reg. 267/03 under the NMA to enable the production of renewable natural gas on-farm, while maintaining sound environmental oversight.
The amendments allow operators to treat up to 40,000 cubic meters per year of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials and specified source separated organics (SSOs) in an RMADF under O. Reg. 267/03. Previously, these operators would have had to secure an Environmental Compliance Approval under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), if they wanted to treat these larger amounts of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials or any SSOs.
For those operators who choose to follow the NMA process, the prescriptive nature of the regulatory approach under the NMA provides a clear, predictable, faster and lower cost approval process as compared to a similar approval under the EPA.
Time to obtain an approval to receive off-farm anaerobic digestion materials for treatment in an on-farm anaerobic digester to produce renewable natural gas is expected to drop from approximately 6 to12 months to 2 months and the cost of obtaining an approval is expected to be reduced by approximately $24,000 per project. If an operation cannot fit within the prescriptive nature of the NMA (for example, the operation would like to receive more than 40,000 cubic meters per year of off farm material), the operation may seek an ECA under the EPA.
The regulatory amendment aligns with the government's Open for Business Action Plan, designed to reduce red tape while providing economic solutions for food and organic waste.
Enabling Ontario farmers to participate in the renewable natural gas market will make farms more competitive by creating new ways to manage agri-food wastes and by-products in on-farm anaerobic digestion facilities.
The amendments will also help the environment by further encouraging development of additional processing capacity that can receive organic waste diverted from landfills.
January 28, 2020
Summary of Proposal:
The Ontario government is proposing changes to the General Regulation (O. Reg. 267/03 - General) under the NMA to ease the burden for agricultural producers that wish to operate a regulated mixed anaerobic digestion facility.
Proposed Regulatory Amendments
1. Design and Construction Requirements
Changes are proposed so that O. Reg 267/03 can accommodate anaerobic digestion systems that generate renewable natural gas on farms. Changes are also proposed to clarify design requirements that strengthen environmental protections. The changes could include:
• Clarified design requirements to enable biogas upgrading to renewable natural gas on an agricultural operation under the Nutrient Management Act;
• Clearly define what components fall under the definition of an RMADF and therefore are required to meet certain rules within the regulation, for example setback requirements, and systems required to reduce potential for noise and odour;
• Clarified digester tank design to bring liner and containment requirements into conformity with other permanent storage systems on the farm.
2. Permitted Feedstocks
Changes are proposed to provide greater flexibility in quantity and type of permitted feedstock for RMADFs (for materials from both on-farm and off-farm sources) under the Nutrient Management Act, including:
• Changes to quantity limits of off-farm materials (materials that do not come from an agricultural operation) with plans to avoid possible noise and odour impacts:
• Increase maximum allowable limits (daily and annually) of off-farm materials, accompanied by new requirements for odour control and odour management plans.
• Remove restrictions on the quantity of on-farm materials (materials from agricultural operations):
• Remove the restriction on materials that can be received from other farms, provided the RMADF is located on an agricultural operation that generates manure;
• Increase allowable proportion of non-manure based agricultural materials for digestion with manure;
• Provide greater flexibility for the types of off-farm materials that can be used in the digester.
• Propose that manure from non-farm herbivorous animals including associated runoff and washwater could be added to Schedule 1;
• Propose that certain de-packaged and screened source separated organics could be added to the list of Schedule 2 off-farm anaerobic digestion materials;
• Propose new regulatory process to make it easier to approve new feedstocks in the future;
3. Operational Requirements
Simplifying operational requirements regarding the sampling and analysis of received anaerobic digestion materials would help reduce costs and enhance operational flexibility for farmers while maintaining risk-based performance requirements and environmental standards. Changes could include:
• Reduce requirements for accepting a load of off-farm anaerobic digestion materials that is to be diverted to another RMADF if it is already known to be acceptable under the NMA.
o Propose that if a material is currently being sent to a RMADF, and if a valid lab analysis is currently in place for the first digester, that a single new load of material could be sent to a second RMADF prior to completion of a fresh lab analysis.
July 1, 2021