The Canadian Environmental Protection Act: A strengthened Act for the new Millennium

The Parliament of Canada has granted Royal Assent to the new Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA, 1999). The following chart illustrates how the new CEPA differs from the former Act.

CEPA, 1999 CEPA, 1988
Pollution Prevention
  • Pollution prevention is the cornerstone of the new Act.
  • Powers to require pollution prevention planning for toxic substances.
  • Pollution control is priority approach.
  • No authority to require pollution prevention planning.
Toxic Substances
  • All 23,000 substances in Canada will be examined to determine if they are toxic.
  • Deadlines for taking action to prevent pollution from toxic substances.

    • Two years to formulate action, and
    • 18 months to finalize action.
  • Virtual elimination of the most dangerous toxic substances.
  • Can require emergency plans for toxic substances.
  • No more than five years to assess "priority substances".
  • No deadlines for taking action to prevent pollution.
  • Virtual elimination not mentioned.
Hormone Disrupting Substances ("Gender Benders")
  • Requires government research on hormone disrupting substances.
  • No requirement to research hormone disrupting substances.
Public Participation
  • Right to request an investigation.
  • New right-to-sue if government fails to enforce CEPA and this results in significant harm to the environment.
  • Must establish National Pollutants Release Inventory so Canadians can get information about pollution in their communities.
  • New internet-based Environmental Registry of CEPA information.
  • Right to request an investigation.
  • National Pollutants Release Inventory established at discretion of Minister.
  • No Environmental Registry.
Intergovern-mental Cooperation
  • National Advisory Committee with representatives of federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments.
  • Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee with representatives of federal, provincial and territorial governments.
Fuels and Engines
  • Expanded authority to control:

    • fuel components;
    • fuels because of their impact on pollution control equipment; and,
    • transfer and handling of fuels to prevent pollution
    • Authority to set engine emission standards for new motor vehicles transferred from Motor Vehicle Safety Act and expanded to cover other types of engines (e.g. off-road vehicles, generators, lawn mowers etc.
  • Authority limited to

    • burning of fuels;
    • maximum level of a substance in a fuel
    • No authority to set engine emission standards.
Meeting Canada's International Obligations
  • Authority to implement expanded obligations of Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes And Their Disposal.
  • More stringent regime for ocean disposal in accordance with the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter.
  • Authority to regulate or require pollution prevention plans for Canadian sources of international air and water pollution where another Canadian government is unwilling or unable to deal with the pollution source.
  • Authority to implement the Convention on Prior Informed Consent for hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade.
  • Authority to regulate Canadian sources of international air pollution where a provincial government is unwilling or unable to deal with the pollution source.
  • "Peace officer" status and expanded powers for enforcement officers (e.g. ability to secure general warrants under the Criminal Code for surveillance of alleged offenses.)
  • Enforcement officers can issue on-the-spot orders to stop violations and prevent pollution.
  • Alternative dispute resolution mechanism to avoid costly court procedures.
  • Authority to conduct inspections and investigations.
  • Can issue warning letters and lay charges.

Associated News Release: New funding to implement the new Canadian Environmental Protection Act

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