8. Environmental emergencies

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) provides authorities to require environmental emergency plans for substances once the Ministers of Environment and Health have declared them toxic. It further provides the authority to establish regulations respecting emergency prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery for the uncontrolled, unplanned, or accidental releases of a substance that has been identified as posing potential harm to the environment or to human health. Part 8 also provides authority to issue guidelines and codes of practice. In addition, it establishes a regime that makes the person who owns or controls the substance liable for restoring the damaged environment and for the costs and expenses incurred in responding to an environmental emergency.

In 2002-03, Environment Canada used its Risk Evaluation Framework to identify those substances currently on the List of Toxic Substances or assessed as toxic that warrant the preparation and implementation of environmental emergency plans. Environmental emergency plans must address prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Factors taken into consideration under the Framework included acute and chronic toxicity; other hazardous properties, such as flammability; historical spill frequency and severity; and the quantities of the substance in Canadian commerce. Consideration was also given as to whether other existing federal and provincial/territorial requirements adequately managed the risks posed by an uncontrolled, unplanned, or accidental release of the substance.

In 2002-03, 16 of the 65 substances currently on the CEPA 1999 List of Toxic Substances or assessed as being toxic were identified as warranting the requirement to prepare and implement environmental emergency plans. Data gathering and evaluation continue on the remaining 49 substances.

As part of the federal government’s overall response to security issues, Environment Canada built on its work under section 199 of CEPA 1999 to address the risks posed by the uncontrolled, unplanned, or accidental releases of a broader range of substances in addition to those currently on the List of Toxic Substances or assessed as being toxic under the act. The approach taken was similar to that under section 199, in that it identified substances whose risks could be reduced by developing and implementing environmental emergency plans.

Through this work, 158 such substances were identified as warranting environmental emergency plans. When added to the 16 substances or groups of substances evaluated under section 199 of the act, this brings the total number of substances to 174. Draft regulations covering these 174 substances were published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, in August 2002. The regulations require any person who owns or manages any of the substances above specified thresholds to notify the Minister of their location and quantity and to prepare and implement environmental emergency plans.

Key deliverables for 2002-03 included:

CEPA 1999 Environmental Registry -- Regulations

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