When I was about seven years old I recall my mother getting very upset upon breaking a thermometer. On her knees and chasing shiny globules of mercury across the kitchen floor, she told me it was poison. Suitably impressed I did not forget. But, she put it in the trash unknowingly allowing the release of mercury vapour into our home until garbage day.
In 2016, the Ontario Legislature enacted the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act. The overall intent of the Act is to divert more waste materials from disposal, and to ensure that diverted materials are reintegrated into the economy in order to reduce the use of raw resources.
First report on neonic-treated seed sales measures widespread use
Looking for information about Canadian pesticide use and sales is frustrating. But in a leap forward for transparency, Ontario has published its first report on sales of corn and soybean seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides ("neonics"), as required by the recently-amended provincial pesticide regulation.
Ontario’s Auditor General has recently released her 2016 report, which deals with climate change, environmental approvals reform, and other key challenges facing the provincial government.
Over 600,000 homes across Canada are estimated to have above-guideline radon levels. That’s a lot of houses where lung cancer risk is elevated. It turns out many of those homes are in the ridings of 93 Members of Parliament with sixteen of those ridings of particular concern. But the elevated risk is nation-wide.
Citing a surplus of power, the Wynne government pulled the plug Tuesday on its Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) process for acquiring wind and solar power at highly competitive prices.
But what the Minister of Energy didn’t mention was that the reason we have a glut of power is the government’s insistence on keeping high-cost nuclear plants running despite plenty of better options.
While the Government of Canada’s review of federal environmental assessment (EA) legislation is well underway, the Ontario government has not announced or commenced a comprehensive public review of its own problematic EA regime.
CELA challenges Ontario to follow California's example and legislate that 35% of cap and trade revenue be invested in low-income and vulnerable communities.
As a Hydro One customer, last week I received a snappy little brochure with my electric bill extolling the virtues of LEDs. Light it Right – Your whole-home guide to LED bulbs is a great source of information. Going room by room I learned about lumens vs watts and how to tailor and optimize my choices from the wide range of highly energy efficient LED lighting options available.
Originally published in The Toronto Star, July 29, 2016
Emissions of some of the most harmful chemicals are on the rise in Canada. We need to update the federal law that’s supposed to curb them.
For the first time in a decade a committee of Parliament is examining how the nation’s primary environmental law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), is working. What we are learning about CEPA is not good news.
I visited the beautiful waterfront on the Ottawa River in the town of Deep River last week, following site tours at Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories and Rolphton. A sign at the waterside park says it is Ontario’s “best kept secret” and it’s all too true .
The government of Ontario released its Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) this week which outlines the province’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fighting climate change for the next four years. The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) and the Canadian Environmental Association (CELA) are pleased that the CCAP includes actions that would support low-income households and vulnerable communities during Ontario’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
$900 Million from Ontario's Cap and Trade Program to Help with Energy Retrofits and Energy Efficiency
While Ontario will not begin auctioning greenhouse gas allowances under the new Cap and Trade program until 2017, the Province has committed close to $1 billion of the possible proceeds under the program to redress the burden borne by low-income households and vulnerable communities in mitigating climate change.
Canada’s environmental commitments can only be successful if they’re not undermined by other policies. In April of this year Canada signed the Paris Agreement, which binds us to hold the increase of average global temperature to less than 2 ºC, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 ºC. Canada’s simultaneous commitment to signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is completely at odds with our greenhouse gas reduction goals.
(originally published as a letter to the editor in Bruce Peninsula Press (Issue #5, 2016, May 3-17, 2016)
Yesterday’s amendments to the proposed cap and trade bill (Bill 172) saw real gains for Ontario’s low-income households and vulnerable communities. Yesterday, the government carried motions that bring low-income households and vulnerable communities’ needs to the fore when the Minister considers how to use cap and trade auction revenues.
Many Canadians will be glad to see the end of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) with their harsh light and often flickering glow. Despite longstanding outreach campaigns, widespread ignorance persists about mercury in CFLs.
Although the environment is burdened by other, larger mercury sources, a broken CFL is in direct contact with people at home, work, or alongside poorly maintained vendor take-back bins.
Responding to climate change is the defining challenge of the twenty-first century. Ontario, like all jurisdictions, needs to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions drastically, starting yesterday. This will be difficult, but we are left with no choice: the environmental and ethical consequences of climate change are already apparent in this province. Ontarians are looking to the provincial government for climate leadership that curtails our GHG emissions and softens the negative impacts for vulnerable communities.
Incredibly, 2016 marks my 30th year at CELA. Since it is customary to sit back and reflect upon such milestones, here are 30 memories (good, bad and ugly) over the past 30 years of working on CELA cases and campaigns:
1. Arriving at CELA in 1986 fresh out of law school, but quickly discovering that I had not learned much about the day-to-day practice of environmental law.
Federal inaction exposes Canadians, environment to unacceptable risks, report says
Faced with a seemingly infinite number of environmental health issues to work on at CELA, we make choices. Guided by population health approaches, we focus attention on issues where the stakes are high and large numbers of people are affected. Radon qualifies.
There is no debate that radon causes cancer. It kills about 3300 Canadians a year and that’s a lot. Compared to other indoor pollutants, and using cancer risk lingo, the “lifetime excess cancer risk” from radon is orders of magnitude greater.
Over two years ago, CELA published an “in memoriam” blog to lament the untimely demise of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 1992 (“CEAA”), which had been repealed and replaced in 2012 with much weaker legislation.
The CELA blog ended with the hope that “a new and improved federal EA regime will soon be resurrected from the ashes.” Fortunately, it now appears that this plea may be answered in the coming months.
My summer of 2015 included numerous fishing trips with family and friends on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. While we were often rewarded with fishing success, I constantly saw reminders of the diverse threats to aquatic ecosystem health.
For example, invasive species were omnipresent, from round gobies nibbling on bait, to spiny water fleas clogging up fishing line, to zebra mussels covering the lakebed, to the lamprey still attached to a salmon that I reeled to the boat.
As Canadian consumers we expect to be protected by the administrative powers of our Federal Government. This holds especially true for young consumers (adolescents and children) because of our physical and psychological vulnerability. We assume we are being looked after by our older, wiser counterparts. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The safety of consumers is often overlooked by the cosmetics industry, and because of Canada’s untimely and unenforced cosmetic regulations, the safety of consumers is sometimes compromised.
Did you hear that the honeybee crisis is over? This bold and surprising pronouncement appeared in Margaret Wente's July 22 Globe and Mail column, ""Good news: There is no honeybee crisis":http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/good-news-there-is-no-honeybee-crisis/article25634384/". Wente cites the latest survey statistics from the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, which indicate fewer losses of Canadian honeybee colonies this past winter than the previous one.
The Great Lakes are enjoying an anniversary of sorts. It’s been almost three years since Canada and the United States signed a revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with the intention of working together to make the lakes cleaner and safe for drinking. For over 40 million people who rely on the lakes, achieving these goals is essential. Unfortunately, though, our governments are not taking adequate action despite the fact that the Great Lakes remain under siege from an overwhelming number of polluting sources.
Mandate. What the dictionary defines variously as “an official order to do something”, an “authoritative command”, a “formal order”, a “directive to act”. That is what the Premier of Ontario issues in the form of a letter, a “mandate letter” every time a minister is appointed to government.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver today announced that Economic Action Plan 2015 will be tabled on April 21, 2015 and reiterated the Government of Canada’s commitment to a balanced budget.
The Green Budget Coalition has offered up some timely advice to make the necessary investments in protecting Canada’s environment and … … to secure balanced federal budgets over the long-term.
Yes, environmental stewardship is not only compatible, but essential for sustaining Canada’s economic prosperity and ensuring balanced federal budgets in the future. T
On the weekend of August 3, 2014, the people of Toledo woke up to find they couldn’t use their tap water. Ohio Governor, John Kasich, declared that Lake Erie was not fit to drink, and 400,000 people scrambled to find alternative sources. The reason: cyanotoxins, produced by blue-green algae blooming profusely in Lake Erie.
I suspect that most of you have heard by now that Theo Colborn died on Sunday at the age of 87. The book that she co-authored, Our Stolen Future, awoke the world to the devastating impacts of endocrine disruptors on wildlife and humans. Many people have referred to her as the second Rachel Carson, whose Silent Spring had woken us to the tragic effects of pesticides. As with Silent Spring, Our Stolen Future drew out the chemical industry in an unsuccessful effort to destroy her reputation.
Twenty years ago CELA called for the introduction of legislation to address strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) (See Intervenor: The Newsletter of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Volume 19, Issue 4, July/August 1994). SLAPPs are civil lawsuits that are filed, often by large corporations, against individuals or local citizens’ groups for speaking out or taking a position on a matter of public interest.
Plastic Microbeads in Consumer Products – Growing concern in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin
On every hot summer day of my childhood, I walked two blocks down the street to Lake Ontario and splashed around. On those days, I couldn’t have imagined a future in which the lake would fill up with microbeads, tiny plastic particles that for the last two decades have been accumulating in lakes and oceans around the world. Particles so small they are almost invisible -- tiny but with big effects.
Most people are unaware of how widespread triclosan and triclocarban chemicals are in their daily lives. Many products labelled as ‘antibacterial’, ‘fights odours’ or ‘kills germs’ may contain triclosan or tricocarban. In fact by 2001, 76% of commercial liquid hand soaps in the U.S. contained triclosan and a wide variety of cosmetics, drugs, clothes, school products and kitchenware also now contain this antibacterial chemical. Plastic products such as toys, toothbrushes, shower curtains and cutting boards may contain triclosan as well as mattresses, carpets, tents, and even garbage cans.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the ostrich as a bird that when pursued hides its head in the sand and believes itself to be unseen. The behaviour, according to Webster’s, is analogous to attempting to avoid difficulty by refusing to face it.
Giving new meaning to the phrase "trust us," provincial and federal authorities and nuclear operators are conducting a major emergency planning exercise at the Darlington nuclear plant without involving the public, as reported by CityTV on May 27, 2014. There are many things wrong with this picture, but not involving the public is the biggest mistake of all.
Summary: Contaminated drinking water is a threat to public health and quality of life. Despite the fact that most arsenic in drinking water arises from natural sources, it is as important to regulate as industrial sources of any toxic substance. Drinking water contaminated with arsenic has been associated with developmental effects, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes and even death.
The MOE Living List Framework Proposal
A number of key milestones will occur in 2014, including: the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One; the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster in India; and the 10th anniversary of the launch of Facebook.
2014 will also mark the 20th anniversary of the date (February 1994) when Ontario’s ground-breaking Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was proclaimed into force.
A Tale of Two Regulatory Approaches: European Commission Ban on Neonicotinoid Pesticides Goes into Effect While in Canada Their Sale and Use Continues
An interesting experiment in contrasting approaches to pesticide regulation is now taking place in Canada and Europe. The European Commission two-year ban on the sale and use, with some limited exceptions, of neonicotinoid pesticides in European Union countries went into effect on December 1, 2013.
The Legal and Regulatory Implications of IARC Classifying Outdoor Air Pollution and Particulate Matter as Carcinogenic to Humans
On October 17, 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized agency of the World Health Organization, announced that it has classified outdoor air pollution and particulate matter as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), following a thorough review of the available scientific
In Ontario, no person is allowed to establish, operate or expand a waste disposal site (i.e. landfill) unless an Environmental Compliance Approval has been issued under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).
New Nuclear Power Not Needed in Ontario – CELA and Ontario`s Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli Are in Agreement
On the morning of Thursday, October 10, 2013, I found on the front step our copy of the Globe and Mail with the headline, ``Ontario backs away from new nuclear plants: Fresh blow to industry looms, with sources saying province will not spend $10-billion on two reactors.``After I tweeted this story by Adam R
For forty years CEHE partner organization the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) has worked to “protect human health and our environment by seeking justice for those harmed by pollution and by working to change policies to prevent such problems in the first place” (www.cela.ca). Here Sarah Miller follows the thirty year process that led to a legal breakthrough in the field of environmental health in Toronto.
When I first joined CELA in the mid-1980s, an intense public policy debate was well underway in Ontario on what to do with the ever-increasing amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) being generated within the province.However, much of this debate tended to focus on how and where Toronto and other communities should dispose of MSW, rather than on how to prevent countless tonnes of waste from being created in the first place.
In my previous post, “Ontario’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program – Road Transportation”, I touched on how the Provincial government’s failure to address road transportation in its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Program meant that it was ignoring the source of almost a third of Ontario’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
On the first anniversary of its untimely demise on July 6, 2012, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 1992 (CEAA 1992) is being remembered by environmentalists as an important attempt to impose legally binding environmental assessment (EA) obligations upon federal decision-makers across Canada.
On Venus, you can cook a 16-inch pepperoni pizza in seven seconds just by holding it out to the air.(1) As the hottest planet in our solar system, Venus is a steady 460°C day or night and owes its prodigious temperature to an atmosphere made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide (96%); The result of a runaway greenhouse effect.