Proposal by Environment Canada to Lower the NPRI Reporting Threshold for Selenium

Environment Canada proposed to lower the NPRI reporting threshold for "Selenium (and its compounds)" commencing with the 2011 reporting year to capture additional significant sources of this pollutant. Consultation on this issue was conducted through the NPRI Multi-stakeholder Work Group in October of 2011. This change is reflected in the 2011 NPRI Canada Gazette notice, which was published on December 24, 2011. No other changes to the NPRI requirements were made for the 2011 reporting year.

A) Summary of Proposal

The following is a summary of the proposal. To obtain a copy of the full proposal, please contact the NPRI.

1. Summary of proposed modification

Environment Canada is proposing to change the NPRI reporting threshold for “Selenium (and its compounds)” to a 100 kg manufacture, process or other use threshold, with no minimum concentration threshold, commencing with the 2011 reporting year.

2. Rationale

Selenium is generally present in raw materials at a very low concentration and in small quantities, which are below current NPRI reporting thresholds. As such, many facilities are not required to report on this substance. Since selenium can cause adverse environmental effects at low concentrations, our analysis indicates that releases which could be of concern to the environment are not currently required to be reported to the NPRI. The proposed reduced threshold would result in an improved data set that includes more information about releases of selenium that may be environmentally significant. The reduced threshold would mean that reporting is required from more facilities, increasing the coverage of NPRI data on selenium.

3. Proposed Timing for the Change

Environment Canada proposes that this change be implemented for the 2011 reporting year. It is important to move forward in a timely manner with this change because levels of selenium that may be of concern for the environment are currently being detected downstream of certain facilities in Canada. The information that would be generated is needed on a priority basis to address data gaps and prepare for upcoming risk assessment activities for selenium compounds in the next phase of the Chemicals Management Plan under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. In addition, the data will support upcoming Departmental activities for risk management for the mining sector.

4. Industrial Sectors Affected

Selenium is manufactured, processed or used in a variety of sectors, as listed below. As such, this change may result in additional facilities reporting for selenium from these sectors. No specific industry exemptions to this reduced threshold are proposed.

  • Metal and coal mines;
  • Facilities using/burning coal (electricity generation plants, integrated iron and steel plants, cement plants, and lime manufacturers);
  • Wastewater treatment plants (both in wastewater and biosolids);
  • Oil sands facilities, upgraders and oil refineries; and
  • Other manufacturing facilities (pharmaceuticals, consumer products, etc.)

B) Summary of Stakeholder Comments and Environment Canada's Response

The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) Multi-Stakeholder Work Group (WG) provided input on Environment Canada’s proposal to lower the reporting threshold for the NPRI substance “selenium (and its compounds)”. After reviewing stakeholder input, Environment Canada (EC) has changed the reporting threshold for “selenium (and its compounds)” for the 2011 NPRI reporting year.

The mass threshold is lowered from 10 tonnes to 100 kg manufactured, processed or otherwise used. The concentration threshold is lowered from 1% to 0.05 parts per million. As a result of this reduced reporting threshold, “selenium (and its compounds)” is listed as a Part 1B NPRI substance instead of a Part 1A substance.

The table below summarizes comments received from the Multi-Stakeholder WG and provides Environment Canada’s responses.

Comments were received from these stakeholders:

  • Two aboriginal representatives, including one from the Assembly of First Nations
  • Chemistry Industry Association of Canada and Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (joint comment)
  • Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
  • Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
  • Cement Association of Canada
  • Canadian Gas Association and Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (joint comment)
  • Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association
No.Stakeholder CommentEnvironment Canada Response
1This proposed change to lower the reporting threshold of selenium and its compounds is warranted.Support for the change proposed by Environment Canada is acknowledged. No response is required.
2Introducing this threshold change for selenium so late in the reporting year will not allow sufficient time for stakeholders to adequately review and analyze the potential impacts of this change on industry. As a result, providing feedback and input to the consultative process and understanding the implications of the change were challenging.The renewed Chemical Management Plan (CMP) includes risk assessment activities for selenium-containing substances. Upon review, data gaps were identified for this class of substances. In order to fill these data gaps, it is necessary to lower the selenium threshold now.

The proposed change will also inform the review of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER).

NPRI data reporting is continually being better aligned with other Environment Canada reporting programs. The overall goal is to reduce the reporting burden on industry while also enhancing data available to Environment Canada and the public.
3The quality of NPRI data for selenium (and its compounds) will be compromised, since facilities will not have enough time to establish proper data collection processes.Selenium (and its compounds) is an existing NPRI substance. Many facilities will already have relevant information. The identification of selenium levels is a routine part of laboratory metals analysis. Many of the facilities that would be required to report selenium (and its compounds) as a result of this threshold change would likely possess information on selenium acquired through their efforts to monitor other substances.

Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), NPRI reporting is based on information in the possession of the facility or that can be reasonably accessed. If a facility genuinely has little or no information on this substance, they would be required to report only the information that they do have for 2011, and should take reasonable steps to gather the full required information for future reporting years.
4As there are no overriding legal or health justifications, deferring the incorporation of this reporting change is recommended until 2012. This will grant stakeholders the opportunity to further review and analyze the impacts, fully comprehend the implications of the change, and establish sound data collection practices.Levels of selenium that are potentially hazardous to the environment are currently being detected downstream from facilities. As a result, Environment Canada prefers to proceed with the lowering of the selenium reporting threshold in a timely manner, to gather more data starting immediately.

The information to be gathered is required to prepare for risk assessment activities for selenium-containing substances. These activities are scheduled to begin in 2013 as part of the renewed CMP, announced on October 3, 2011.

More data on selenium will support upcoming Environment Canada departmental activities for the mining sector.
5Not having a minimum concentration threshold for determining whether reporting selenium (and its compounds) is required is not practical. This will be potentially challenging for reporters. For example, Material Safety Data Sheets are not required to list selenium at concentrations less than 1% or 0.1%, depending on the substance. In addition, low detection analyses are quite costly and can potentially lead to false positive results where concentrations are below the method detection limit.During the NPRI WG consultations, valid justifications for establishing a minimum concentration threshold for selenium (and its compounds) were raised by stakeholders.

Selenium is generally present in raw material at very low concentrations. Therefore, a concentration threshold lower than the 1% or 0.1% generally used in the NPRI is required.

To address stakeholder concerns, Environment Canada is implementing a minimum concentration threshold of 0.05 parts per million. Analysis indicates that this concentration threshold is low enough to capture the levels of selenium that can cause adverse effects to the environment.
Reporting Instrument/Program:
6Gathering selenium data through a targeted approach such as through the Section 71 Chemicals Management Plan would be more efficient and reduce the reporting burden on industry. After the data is collected that way, changes to the NPRI could be implemented.Because selenium (and its compounds) is a substance that is already reported to the NPRI, it will be more efficient and effective to lower the reporting threshold now. In addition, Environment Canada considers it important to address the identified gaps in NPRI reporting for this substance.

Through this approach, data to support risk assessment activities for selenium-containing compounds will be captured, reducing the likelihood that additional specific data collection will be required for the risk assessment for this substance.

The collection of data on selenium (and its compounds) through the NPRI will also inform other Environment Canada initiatives such as the review of the MMER which is presently underway.
7The current selenium reporting format consists of reducing the substance to its elemental form (i.e., “selenium and its compounds”, reported as the quantity of selenium). This results in the loss of the information on the different oxidation states and individual metal compounds, which often have very different behaviour and impacts, reducing the ability to draw conclusions from the data.

This reporting format is also used for the other NPRI metals.
Environment Canada acknowledges that the NPRI approach for reporting of metals has some limitations.

This issue will continue to be examined as part of an ongoing review of the NPRI substance list.
Decline in Engagement of Work Group members:
8In recent years, there has been a decline in engagement of stakeholders in the decision-making processes of the NPRI.Environment Canada values the input of stakeholders in its decision-making processes.

Environment Canada recognizes that there has been a change in its stakeholder consultation model. We will continue to develop new methods to continually improve stakeholder engagement, with the goal of keeping it both efficient and effective.
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