Environmental occurrences: notification agreements and regulations

1. Notification Agreements

Federal, provincial and territorial laws require, in most cases, notification of the same environmental emergency or environmental occurrence, such as an oil or chemical spill. In order to reduce duplication of effort, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada entered into Environmental Occurrences Notification Agreements (“Notification Agreements”) with the Governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan, as well as with the Governments of the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

The purpose of the Notification Agreements is to establish a streamlined notification system for persons required to notify federal and provincial/territorial governments of an environmental emergency or environmental occurrence (spill, release, etc.). An environmental occurrence includes the release, or the likelihood of a release, of a substance into the environment in contravention of regulations referred to in section 95, 169, 179 or 212 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA, 1999), an environmental emergency under section 201 of CEPA, 1999, or an unauthorized deposit of a deleterious substance, in water frequented by fish, or a serious and imminent danger of such an occurrence  under subsection 38(5) of the Fisheries Act.

Under these Notification Agreements, 24-hour authorities operating for the provinces and territories receive notifications of environmental emergencies or environmental occurrences and transfer this information to Environment and Climate Change Canada. In the majority of jurisdictions, an authority within the respective provincial or territorial government provides this notification service. In the Atlantic Provinces, the Canadian Coast Guard serves in this capacity, and, in Nunavut, the Government of the Northwest Territories does so. In Quebec, Environment and Climate Change Canada receives notifications directly from the regulated community and the public.

Notifications of environmental emergencies or occurrences and the transfer of information to the appropriate 24-hour authorities are essential for timely and effective oversight of the response, as may be warranted.

CEPA Environmental Registry:

2. Notification Regulations

The Release and Environmental Emergency Notification Regulations, and the Deposit Out of the Normal Course of Events Notification Regulations (“Notification Regulations”), apply to verbal notification requirements under CEPA, 1999 and the Fisheries Act, respectively.

In order to reduce notification burden and duplication of effort, the Notification Regulations support and complement the Notification Agreements by providing the regulated community and the public with the name and telephone number of the 24-hour authorities operating for the respective province or territory to which notifications are to be made, enabling them to receive notifications on behalf of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

In the case of the master of a vessel, the authorized representative of a Canadian vessel, the owner of any other vessel or the operator of an oil handling facility (to whom the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations (VPDCR)  under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 apply), the Notification Regulations designate the marine safety inspector or the marine communications and traffic services officer referred to in the VPDCR to receive notification under CEPA, 1999 on behalf of Environment and Climate Change Canada. This reduces the duplicate reporting obligation for these persons. Notification procedures to the marine safety inspector or the marine communications and traffic services officer  can be found in Transport Canada’s Guidelines for Reporting Incidents Involving Dangerous Goods, Harmful Substances and/or Marine Pollutants.

The Notification Agreements came into effect on the day on which the Notification Regulations came into force (March 25, 2011).  The Notification Regulations were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on April 13, 2011, and the Notification Agreements were published on the CEPA Environmental Registry on April 16, 2011.

Canada Gazette

Justice Canada’s website

CEPA Environmental Registry

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