Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement Progress Report 2012: chapter 3

Section 3: New Actions on Acid Rain, Ozone, and PM


Over the past several years the federal government has worked with provinces, territories, and other stakeholders and developed a new Air Quality Management System (AQMS) to further protect the environment and the health of Canadians. The new system is expected to reduce the emissions from all sources of air pollution in order to improve air quality. The federal Minister of the Environment and his provincial and territorial counterparts (with the exception of Quebec) agreed to implementthe AQMS beginning in 2013. The province of Quebec supports the general objectives of the system and will collaborate with all jurisdictions to implement some of the key elements of the system. The key elements of the AQMS include:

Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards

New ambient air quality standards for PM (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone will be implemented under CEPA 1999, as approved by Ministers of the Environment. The new standards are more stringent and replace the existing CWS for these two pollutants. The federal, provincial, and territorial governments have also initiated the development of the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) for other air pollutants of concern such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide..

Air Zone Management/Regional Airsheds

The system includes a framework for managing air quality through local air zones which are geographic areas within each province or territory, with similar air quality issues and challenges. The framework outlines four air quality management levels with threshold values based on CAAQS that encourage progressively more rigorous actions by jurisdictions as air quality approaches or exceeds the CAAQS. Provinces or territories will lead air quality management guided by this framework and select air quality management actions tailored to each air zone. The AQMS also promotes proactive measures to protect air quality by ensuring the CAAQS are not exceeded and do not become “pollute up to” levels.

In addition to the air zones, six regional airsheds have been established to coordinate air quality management actions across the country and to better understand the transboundary flow of pollutants. The airsheds are larger areas, cutting across jurisdictional boundaries where air quality characteristics and air movement patterns are similar. They provide a framework for inter-jurisdictional collaboration and coordination of overall system reporting.

Base-Level Industrial Emissions Requirements

Base-Level Industrial Emissions Requirements (BLIERs) are emissions requirements established at a national level for new and existing facilities in major industrial sectors and for some cross-sectoral equipment types. These requirements are based on what leading jurisdictions inside or outside of Canada are requiring of industry in “attainment areas,” adjusted for Canadian circumstances.

The AQMS also provides a venue for information sharing and collaboration among federal, provincial and territorial governments, and facilitates the coordination of efforts to reduce emissions from mobile sources across Canada.

Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations

In September 2012, Environment Canada published final regulations on the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity in the Canada Gazette, Part II. The regulations apply a stringent performance standard to new coal-fired electricity generation units and to coal-fired units that have reached the end of their economic life. This fosters a transition towards lower- or nonemitting types of generation such as high-efficiency natural gas, renewable energy, or fossil fuel-fired power with carbon capture and storage.

These regulations are expected to have important co-benefits in reducing SO2, NOx, and other air pollutant emissions and improving local air quality. In 2010, coal-fired electricity generation was a significant contributor of total PM (80 percent of electric utility emissions), SO2 (95 percent of electric utility emissions), NOX (72 percent of electricity emissions), and Hg (95 percent of electric utility emissions).

Monitoring Downwind of Canada’s Oil Sands

The oil sands deposits in western Canada are a major natural resource whose development is necessitate a more comprehensive understanding of their potential cumulative environmental impact. In response to concerns on the impacts of oil sands activities and to ensure the resource is being developed in an environmentally-responsible manner, the Governments of Canada and Alberta developed a joint plan to implement a world-class monitoring program in the oil sands region.

Joint Canada Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring

The Joint Implementation Plan focuses on the four main component areas: air, water quantity and quality, wildlife biodiversity, and wildlife toxicology. Figure 35 shows the existing monitoring in 2011 and the monitoring proposed by year 2015.

Figure 35. Existing Monitoring During the 2010-11 Baseline Year and Proposed Monitoring by 2015

Existing Monitoring During the 2010-11 Baseline Year and Proposed Monitoring by 2015

Existing Monitoring During the 2010-11 Baseline Year and Proposed Monitoring by 2015

Source: Government of Canada and Government of Alberta, 2012. Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring.

The oil sands monitoring program will be integrated across all components and data collected from the program will add to Canada’s contribution in fulfillment of its monitoring commitments under the Air Quality Agreement. The program will expand the existing monitoring networks, including better monitoring and reporting of the acid rain-causing compounds SO2 and NOX. It will also be able to provide additional information on deposition of acid-causing compounds in western Canada and contribute to the refining of aquatic and terrestrial critical loads downwind of the major oil sands activities. Modeling under the plan will document instances of transboundary transport of smog, including any long-range transport to the U.S.

United States

Ozone Standards and Implementation

In March 2008, the U.S. EPA revised the NAAQS for ground-level ozone, setting them at a level of 0.075 ppm (based on the annual fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hour concentration, averaged over 3 years). Both the primary standard for the protection of health and the secondary standard for the protection of sensitive vegetation and ecosystems were set at this level. This action strengthened the standards from the previous level of 0.08 ppm (effectively 0.084 ppm) for the 1997 ozone standards. In April 2012, U.S. EPA designated 46 areas as “nonattainment” for the 2008 ozone standards. Only 3 of these areas were designated as nonattainment for the first time. States with nonattainment areas are now obligated to develop plans in 2014 to 2015 to reduce emissions as necessary to attain the standards, taking into account federal and state programs already in place that will reduce NOx and VOC emissions across the country. Each area will have between 3 and 20 years to attain, depending on the degree to which the air quality for the area exceeds the standard. Additional information on the proposed ozone standards and other implementation issues can be found at:

Regarding ongoing implementation of the 0.08 ppm 1997 ozone standards, more than 85 percent of the 126 areas designated as nonattainment in 2005 now are attaining the standards based on 2008 to 2010 air quality. A number of national and regional measures--such as the NOx SIP Call and CAIR for electric utilities and other large sources, more stringent requirements for car and truck engines and fuels, and issuance of new standards to reduce emissions from a wide range of sources of toxic air pollutants (and VOCs)--have helped these areas attain the standards. The U.S. EPA continues to work with the remaining areas to further reduce emissions and reach attainment.

U.S. EPA works with state, local, and Tribal governments on implementing the 1997 and 2008 ozone standards, and continues the ongoing 5-year review of the updated science that supports the standards. This review is scheduled to be completed in 2013. More information on the ozone NAAQS review can be found at:

PM Standards and Implementation

The U.S. EPA established the original NAAQS for PM2.5in 1997 to provide protection from the adverse health effects of fine particles. The primary annual PM2.5 standard was set at a level of 15 µg/m3 averaged over three years, and the 24-hour standard was set at a level of 65 µg/m3(average of the 98th percentile value for three consecutive years). The secondary standards for PM2.5, for protection against visibility impairment, materials damage, and other environmental effects, were set at levels identical to those for the primary standards.

In April 2005, the U.S. EPA designated 39 nonattainment areas for the 1997 PM2.5 standards. Thirty-six of these areas are in the eastern United States (including Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, located on the Great Lakes); two are located in California; and one area is located in northern Montana. States were required to submit SIPs to the U.S. EPA in 2008. Each plan is to include strategies and regulations for reducing emissions of PM2.5 and its precursors, and demonstrate how the area would attain the standards “as expeditiously as practicable,” presumptively within five years of designation. The U.S. EPA granted extended attainment dates up to ten years for a few areas with more severe air quality situations. The 2007 Clean Air Fine Particle Implementation Rule provided guidance to the states in developing their plans and can be found at:

A number of federal and regional programs have been established to reduce emissions of fine particles and important precursor pollutants from key sources such as on-road and nonroad vehicle engines and power plants. Examples include the 2000 Heavy Duty Highway Diesel Engine Rule, the 2004 Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule, the 2008 Locomotive and Marine Diesel Engine Rule, and voluntary diesel retrofit programs in many states. Despite legal challenges to the CAIR, by 2009 U.S. power plants reduced SO2emissions by 4.5 million short tons (4.1 million metric tons) since 2005. Voluntary programs to change out residential wood stoves and reduce wood smoke emissions have also been successful in a number of communities. Together, these programs have led to important reductions in particle pollution in the United States. Based on 2008 to 2010 air quality data, 33 of the 39 designated nonattainment areas have air quality concentrations attaining the 1997 PM2.5 standards.

In October 2006, the U.S. EPA completed the next review of the PM standards, reflecting findings from scientific studies published since the last review. The level of the annual PM2.5standard remained unchanged at 15 µg/m3. However, the U.S. EPA established a more protective 24-hour standard at 35 µg/m3 (average of 98th percentile values for 3 years). The secondary standards were set at levels identical to those for the primary standards. The existing 24-hour PM10standard of 150 µg/m3 was retained. However, due to a lack of evidence linking health problems to long-term exposure to coarse particle pollution, the U.S. EPA revoked the annual PM10 standard. The revised standards and related information can be found at

A number of parties challenged the 2006 PM standards on the basis that they did not strengthen the annual standard and did not establish a distinct secondary standard for the protection of visibility as recommended by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. In February 2009, a federal appellate court remanded back to U.S. EPA the 2006 annual PM2.5 standard and the PM2.5 secondary standard. Despite these legal challenges, U.S. EPA moved forward with implementation of the revised 24-hour PM2.5 standard, designating 32 nonattainment areas in 2009-10. Half of these areas had been designated nonattainment for PM2.5 in 2005, and the others were new PM2.5 nonattainment areas. In contrast to the previous round of nonattainment designations in 2005, a number of the new areas have high concentrations primarily in the cold weather months, with key contributions from wood smoke emissions. State attainment plans for these areas are due in December 2012. Additional information on the 2009 area designations can be found at:

As part of its 5-year review of the PM NAAQS and in response to the remand from the court, in June 2012 the U.S. EPA proposed revisions to the PM NAAQS, including revisions to the PM2.5 annual standard and a distinct PM2.5secondary standard for visibility. After considering public comment, the Agency will finalize any revisions to the PM standards in December 2012 in accordance with the court-ordered schedule. More information on the current PM NAAQS review can be found at:

New Tier 3 Standards for Mobile Sources

The U.S. EPA is currently developing Tier 3 standards to respond to the critical need to improve air quality, and to enable a harmonized national vehicle emissions control program. The U.S. EPA is designing these standards to reduce emissions of ozone precursors (NOX and VOC) and other pollutants from motor vehicles, and to help state and local areas attain and maintain the existing health-based NAAQS in a cost-effective and timely way. The standards in this rule would lead to reductions in ozone, PM, NO2, and mobile source air toxics. The reductions in ozone and PM would avoid premature mortality and other health impacts, including respiratory symptoms in children and exacerbation of asthma. The U.S. EPA is considering more stringent vehicle emission standards as well as reductions in gasoline sulfur content as part of the Tier 3 program. The approach U.S. EPA is taking in developing Tier 3 standards considers the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system, which would enable technologically feasible and cost-effective emission reductions beyond what would be possible looking at vehicle and fuel standards in isolation.

US Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants

Power plants are the largest individual sources ofcarbon pollution in the United States and currentlythere are no uniform national limits on the amountof carbon pollution that future power plants will beable to emit. Consistent with the US Supreme Court’sdecision, in 2009, EPA determined that greenhousegas pollution threatens Americans’ health andwelfare by leading to long lasting changes in ourclimate that can have a range of negative effects onhuman health and the environment.

On April 13, 2012, the EPA proposed a carbonpollution standard for new power plants. Therule sets national limits on the amount of carbonpollution that new power plants can emit. EPA isproposing that new fossil-fuel-fired-power plantsmeet an output-based standard of 1,000 pounds (0.454 metric tons) of CO2 per megawatt-hour (lb CO2/MWh gross). The agency’s proposal, whichdoes not apply to plants currently operatingor that commence construction after April 13,2012, is flexible and would help minimize carbonpollution through the deployment of the sametypes of modern technologies and steps that powercompanies are already taking to build the nextgeneration of power plants. EPA’s proposal wouldensure that this progress toward a cleaner, safer,and more modern power sector continues. Theproposed rule called “Standards of Performancefor Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New StationarySources: Electric Utility Generating Units” is posted at

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