Explaining the release guidelines process

Explaining the release guidelines process
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We develop release guidelines in collaboration with industry to achieve specific environmental or human health objectives.

As release guidelines are voluntary instruments, they are more likely to achieve their objectives when the participants are committed to adopt the release limits and have a good compliance history with other risk management instruments. 

The development phase

During the development of release guidelines, we focus our activities on three main areas.

Knowing the target audience

Knowing the target audience helps ensure the release guidelines are relevant and applicable for all potential participants. We collect information on:

Setting the recommended release limits

Release limits are specific to a chemical substance or group of chemical substances. The limits can be set based on the amount or concentration of the substance(s) that should not pose a risk to the environment or human health, as determined during the risk assessment process. They can also align with requirements of different governments inside or outside Canada (such as the base-level industrial emissions requirements, or BLIERs).

We review and consider information from industries, non-governmental organizations or other government bodies in Canada and abroad. The limits should be stringent enough to allow us to meet the objectives for environment or human health protection. They should also be attainable by the participants using available techniques and technology. Finally, they should be standardized and measurable. Therefore, we also provide recommended measurement methods for participants to monitor their releases. We include these measurement methods within the release guidelines themselves or we provide hyperlinks or contact information so they are easy to access by participants.

Consulting stakeholders

We conduct consultations throughout the development of the release guidelines. Since release guidelines provide limits on releases and do not always specify the actions to take, early consultations can help ensure that the limits can be met. They also provide opportunities for feedback on the content of the instrument, including data collection, verification and performance reporting.

Consultation methods commonly used during the development of release guidelines include:

We consider the characteristics of the potential participants as well as interested stakeholders when determining consultation methods. A combination of methods is often necessary for meaningful consultations.

The implementation phase

Once we finalize the release guidelines, we publish them in the Canada Gazette, Part I, and online, and the implementation phase begins. All risk management instruments benefit from implementation activities, especially voluntary instruments like release guidelines.

Promoting compliance

Compliance promotion begins at publication and continues throughout the life cycle of the release guidelines. That way, new industry facilities are made aware of them, and existing participants continue to follow them. Compliance promotion activities include:

Data collection

To measure the effectiveness of participants at meeting the objectives of the release guidelines, we collect performance data, such as quantitative release, use or concentration data. We may collect data directly from participants from annual reports, from internal and external databases (such as the National Pollutant Release Inventory), from other governments or from the public domain.

When collecting data from the participants, we use different approaches to facilitate and encourage reporting, such as:

Anyone submitting information with respect to the release guidelines may request, in writing, that we consider all or parts of the information as confidential. We may grant confidentiality if the information meets the criteria specified in section 317 of CEPA, and with reference to section 20 of the Access to Information Act. We will evaluate each request and inform the submitter of our decision in writing.


Verification is the process by which we verify the accuracy of the data reported, including the methodology used to gather and analyze the data.

We use a number of different methods to verify the results, including:

Performance measurement

Performance measurement consists of analyzing the performance data (see Data collection section above) against specific targets to determine if participants implementing actions in response to the release guidelines are on track to achieve their objectives. Performance measurement takes place on a regular basis throughout the implementation phase. This allows us to adjust implementation activities if the targets are not met.

Ultimately, performance measurement will help us determine whether there is a need to maintain the original release guidelines, amend them or replace them with an enforceable risk management instrument such as regulations.

Performance reporting

We summarize performance results and share them online as a means to increase transparency and encourage continuous improvement.

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