Air emission permitting regimes
Governments can also impose legally binding requirements on polluters. This is mainly done at the provincial level through air pollution permits. In most provinces (for example BC) regulators have a broad discretion with respect to the stingency of the requirements imposed in such permits. In contrast, in Ontario, permits must comply with legally mandated limits set out in a province wide regulation that apply to about a 100 common air pollutants. The federal government is also empowered to regulate air pollutants once it has taken the formal step of deeming it "toxic". To date, it has only deemed six pollutants to be "toxic", most recently fine particulate matter. What type of regulations will be brought in to regulate PM has yet to be decided.
The most common criticisms levelled against permitting schemes are that they are not enforced strictly enough, and that they provide little or no incentive for companies to reduce their emissions below the levels allowed by their permit. As a result, there are frequent calls to make it easier for citizens groups to prosecute permit violators, and to redesign permitting systems to create new incentives (or requirements) for companies to reduce their emissions over time.