Government, industry and some non-profit organizations are changing federal and provincial environmental legislation. When enacted, many of these changes legalize activities once prohibited by law. What's more, the changes are often cloaked in language that wrongly suggests the rollbacks, exemptions, and shortcuts will protect our lakes and rivers better than the rights they displace.
Over the summer, Waterkeeper filed a number of submissions highlighting our concerns. We have catalogued and summarized a few of these emerging threats below:
April 8, 2006: Regulation amending the Fisheries Act, metal mining effluent rules. New regulation would change some natural ponds to mine tailings ponds, destroying these waterbodies forever. Environment Canada's decision is pending. (Waterkeeper's comment).
June 17, 2006: Proposed amendment to the Canada Shipping Act, pollution prevention regulations. Changes would allow dumping of unlimited amounts of hazardous cargo (garbage) into the Great Lakes, 12 nautical miles from shore. Transport Canada's decision is pending. (Waterkeeper's comment).
September 2, 2006: Decision by the Ministers of Environment and Health to â€œtake no further actionâ€? to ensure uranium mines and mills meet the standards of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The federal government decided, for the first time in history, not to use the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to protect waterways from pollution â€“ even after years of research showed Canadian waters are at risk. (Decision).
Ongoing: Regulation amending the Fisheries Act, municipal wastewater rules. For two years, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has been holding meetings and leading discussions about a â€œCanada-Wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater Effluent.â€? The proposal would exempt municipal sewage treatment plants from the current protections offered by the Fisheries Act and move to a risk-assessment model that offers different levels of protection for different waterways and different communities. (CCME documents)
June 15, 2006: Regulation exempting the Integrated Power System Plan from the Environmental Assessment Act. Ontario passed this regulation exempting its entire power system plan from the province's environmental assessment process. The new regulation created alarming uncertainty regarding the public's ability to strengthen the regulatory approvals process for new or expanded nuclear power plants in Ontario. (Waterkeeper's comment)
July 18, 2006: Amendments to the Environmental Protection Act, waste regulations. Proposed amendments would exempt a large number of wastes (eg, asphalt, batteries, electronics) from technical hearings and permitting process. Ministry of the Environment's decision is pending. (Waterkeeper's comment).
August 8, 2006: Bill 43, Clean Water Act. The Standing Committee on Social Policy is considering Bill 43, which downloads enforcement of environmental laws to municipalities and weakens Ontario's commitment to ensuring waterways are clean for fishing and swimming. Bill 43 is still before the Ontario Legislature. (Waterkeeper's comment).
Environmental law, regulation, and process once promised access to clean water for every Ontarian and every Canadian. They protected every person, regardless of political affiliation, economic clout, or existing environmental impacts ... When did we decide to give that up?