B.C. Air Quality

Summary of Air Quality Legislation

The Environmental Management Act and the Waste Discharge Regulation are the fundamental pieces of legislation for air quality in British Columbia. The Environmental Management Act (EMA) was enacted in July 2004. It replaces the Waste Management Act and the Environment Management Act and brings provisions from both of those acts into one statute.

The EMA provides a more flexible authorization framework, increases enforcement options and uses modern environmental-management tools. It also enables the use of administrative penalties, informational orders and economic instruments to assist in achieving compliance. Along with the enactment of the Environmental Management Act, several new regulations and regulatory amendments have been made. Other regulations are being reviewed and revised, and codes of practice are being written.

For more information, including the new and amended regulations, see the Environmental Management Act website. To learn about regulatory codes of practice, and regulations that are being reviewed and revised, visit New Update: Summary of Action Plan in Response to the Program Evaluation for the Code of Practice Development and Regulatory Review Process.

Under the Environmental Management Act, the Waste Discharge Regulation establishes a three-tiered approach to discharges to the environment.

  1. Industries, trades, businesses operations or activities considered to be high risk to the environment and public health, or those where it was determined that development of a code of practice was impractical, are listed in Schedule 1 of the Waste Discharge Regulation. These dischargers will require a permit or approval to authorize their discharges. A detailed technical assessment of the discharge is normally required.

  2. Industries, trades, businesses operations or activities considered to be medium risk to the environment and public health are listed in Schedule 2 of the Waste Discharge Regulation. These dischargers would register under the code of practice or regulation if required by that code or regulation. If a code of practice or regulation has not been developed, a permit or approval is required. In this case, a technical assessment may not be required if sufficient information is included on the application form.

  3. Industries, trades, businesses operations or activities not listed in either Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 of the regulation are considered low risk and do not require a formal authorization to discharge waste. However, the discharges must not cause pollution or present a risk to public health.

An application for an Environmental Management Act permit, significant amendment or approval involves a number of activities by the applicant, qualified professionals and ministry staff. To find out more, visit the Waste Discharge Authorizations website.

Air quality management involves other processes and legislation. This includes the environmental assessment process under the Environmental Assessment Act. Proposed projects may need to undergo a formal environmental assessment, if required by criteria in federal or provincial legislation. This process identifies and assesses the potential impacts of a proposed project and develops measures to eliminate, minimize or manage those impacts. To find out more, visit the Environmental Assessment Office website.

Climate Change Acts

The government has passed important acts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change. Regulations under these acts are also being developed. Since air quality and climate change are interrelated, this legislation will help decrease emissions that contribute to air pollution. See Legislation and Policy, on the Climate Change website.

In this section:

The Legislative Framework 

Summary of Air Quality Legislation

Air Quality Regulations

Permits, Approvals and Codes of Practice

Guidelines, Criteria and Procedures

Air Quality Objectives and Standards (including the new PM2.5 Objective)

Levels of Government Involved

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