The new Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) received third reading in the House of Commons on June 1, 1999. It has now proceeded to the Senate for consideration and is expected to be in force by the fall of 1999.
There are numerous changes effected by the CEPA, some of which relate specifically to waste issues. In general, it provides greater power to the federal government to control the transboundary movement of hazardous waste and the import and export of non-hazardous waste.
The CEPA prohibits the import, export or conveyance of a hazardous waste, hazardous recyclable material or prescribed non-hazardous waste for final disposal unless the federal environment minister has been notified, the prescribed fee has been paid and an appropriate permit has been issued. In the case of an import or export, the permit must state that the authorities of the destination country have authorized the movement and the final disposal or recycling of the waste.
Once the federal minister receives notification of a proposed movement, he or she must publish the name or specifications of the waste in the Canada Gazette. In the case of a proposed import, the jurisdiction of origin and the importer must be named. In the case of a proposed export the jurisdiction of destination and the exporter must be set out. And in the case of a proposed transit the jurisdictions of origin and destination and the conveyer must be included.
The minister has the power to refuse to issue a permit if he or she believes the waste will not be managed in a manner that protects the environment and human health against adverse effects — even where relevant authorities have given their authorization. In making such a refusal, the minister must rely on criteria set out in the regulations. Before refusal, the minister must consult with the government of the jurisdiction of destination.
Where the minister is of the opinion that the waste will be managed in a proper manner and the relevant authorities lack the legal authority to authorize movement but they’re not opposed to it, the minister may issue the necessary permit.
For the purpose of implementing international agreements, the CEPA authorizes the minister to prohibit (either completely or partially) the export, import, or conveyance of a hazardous waste, hazardous recyclable material or prescribed non-hazardous waste. In making such a decision, the minister must obtain the approval of the Governor in Council and take into account Canada’s international obligations.
For the purpose of reducing or phasing out the export of hazardous waste or prescribed non-hazardous waste for final disposal, a provision in the CEPA entitles the minister to require an exporter or class of exporters to submit a plan and to implement that plan failing which the minister may refuse to issue a permit.
The CEPA entitles the minister to issue a permit for any activity to be conducted in a manner that doesn’t comply with CEPA provisions if the minister is satisfied that an equivalent level of environmental safety will be achieved. In the case of import, export or conveyance of a waste or material, the activity must also be consistent with international environmental agreements binding on Canada.
While the article has dealt primarily with those provisions of the CEPA relating to waste, it should be noted that there are numerous other changes effected by the CEPA. For example, there will be a new category of officers (to be called “CEPA investigators”) that will have inspector’s powers and certain other powers available to peace officers, including the authority to serve summonses and other court documents and to secure search warrants. The CEPA also provides extended powers such as the ability to issue environmental protec- tion compliance orders to stop illegal activity or to correct violations.
In addition, the CEPA is intended to be consistent with the January 29, 1998 Canada-Wide Accord on Environmental Harmonization. This is a welcome concept for industry given common complaints regarding the lack of consistency between federal and provincial legislation in the treatment of waste and what constitutes waste.