Federal Bills affecting EA, Nuclear Liability, Product Safety; Arctic Drilling Public Review; CELA Signs Voices-Voix Declaration; Action on Toxics; Ripple of Change Youth Statement; and more

CELA Bulletin

79: 18-June-2010

Periodic E-News from the Canadian Environmental Law Association

In this issue:

  • CELA Tracks Federal Environmental Assessment Changes in the Senate
  • CELA Signs Voices-Voix Declaration in Support of Free Speech, Democracy and Transparency
  • First Nations Water Bill Introduced in the Senate
  • Product Safety Bill Reintroduced
  • Revised Nuclear Liability Act reintroduced With Inadequate Cap on Liability After Accidents; Comparable Situation for Canadian Offshore Oil Drilling? National Energy Board Public Review Announced into Arctic Safety and Environmental Offshore Drilling Requirements
  • Eight Carcinogens Added to List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
  • Welcome Progress on POPs
  • Dramatic Pesticide Reduction in Ontario Streams in First Year After Ontario Cosmetic Pesticide Ban
  • CPCHE Resources Recommended by Health Ministries in Guidance for Implementing Revised Ontario Health Standards
  • CELA Opposes Ontario Decision to Boost Coal-Fired Electricity Production
  • Walkerton Anniversary Commemorated; Ripple of Change Youth Statement on Conserving and Protecting Ontario Water
  • CELA Comments on Rules for Appealing Renewable Energy Approvals in Ontario
  • Continuing to Export Death from Quebec - Government Loan Likely to Support Asbestos Industry

CELA Tracks Federal Environmental Assessment Changes in the Senate
The Harper government's controversial budget legislation (Bill C-9) was passed by a vote of 138-126 in the House of Commons on June 8th, and now has moved on to the Senate for consideration. Among other things, this legislation enacts several ill-advised amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). On June 15th, the Senate debated and defeated a motion to split off some non-budgetary matters -- including the CEAA changes -- from the Bill. On June 16th, the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony from governmental witnesses regarding the CEAA changes. CELA and other environmental groups have requested an opportunity to appear before the Senate Finance Committee to speak to the CEAA amendments. In May, CELA spoke against the CEAA changes at a hearing held by the House Finance Committee (on-line links to May 11th hearing transcript, evidence and webcast). In the meantime, the mandatory review of CEAA by Parliament will likely commence in the coming months, as the House of Commons recently referred this matter to the House Environment Committee, which is now preparing a work plan for the CEAA Review.
For more information:

Richard Lindgren, Counsel (613-385-1686; r.lindgren@sympatico.ca)


CELA Signs Voices-Voix Declaration in Support of Free Speech, Democracy and Transparency
CELA has joined a broad cross-section of Canadian social justice and public interest organizations and many individual Canadians in signing the Voices-Voix Declaration. The statement expresses deep concerns about the state of democracy, free speech, and transparency in Canada. It decries unparalleled actions by the federal Government in systematically undermining democratic institutions in Canada, eroding the protection of free speech, and other fundamental human rights. The declaration notes examples of deliberate silencing of voices of organizations or individuals who raise concerns about government policies or disagree with government positions. It further condemns the unprecedented level of secrecy that now shrouds many government activities and decisions, making it increasingly difficult for the public to hold the government accountable on fundamentally important issues. The statement calls upon the Government of Canada to take action in three areas including the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to act in accordance with Canada's democratic traditions and values, and to be more transparent. Indeed, most of the actions called for in the declaration are basic principles already entrenched in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
For more information and to sign the declaration:
Keith Rimstad, Voices-Voix coordinator: krimstad@amnesty.ca


First Nations Water Bill Introduced in the Senate
First Nations water quality issues are addressed in a recent government bill, Bill S-11, introduced for first reading in the Senate instead of the House of Commons, a move that appears to recognize the work done on this issue by the standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. The bill will simply be addressed in reverse order to the typical manner in which bills are considered by the two houses. S-11 addresses recommendations made in 2005 by the Auditor General's office, the November 2006 expert panel report on safe drinking water for First Nations and a report of the standing Senate committee on aboriginal peoples. For more information, see also: Library of Parliament, Background Paper on this issue. CELA will monitor this Bill and engage in the Senate committee hearings.
For more information:
Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director (416-960-2284 ext 219, theresa@cela.ca)


Product Safety Bill Reintroduced
For the third time, in Bill C-36, the federal government has introduced legislative amendments to the Hazardous Products Act. The bill is substantially similar to the version of the last bill (C-6) that was passed by the House before Parliament prorogued in late 2009. Hence, it contains the same modest suite of reforms such as finally providing for product recall powers, improvements in product tracking requirements, inspections and higher fines. However, the Bill, which is likely to go to Committee hearings in the fall, remains largely reactive in nature. It provides the means to better respond to problems but provides little legal force to ensuring their prevention in the first place. CELA will again urge the federal government to take the opportunity of reforming this law by applying a suite of progressive measures, and at the very least, ban the use of toxic substances in consumer products alongside far greater disclosure requirements on product labels when these substances are used (as raised with the Commons Health Committee in June of 2009 regarding Bill C-6).
For more information:
Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher (416-960-2284 ext 221, kcooper@cela.ca)


Revised Nuclear Liability Act Reintroduced With Inadequate Cap on Liability After Accidents; Comparable Situation for Offshore Oil Drilling? National Energy Board Public Review Announced into Arctic Safety and Environmental Offshore Drilling Requirements
The federal government has also reintroduced legislation (Bill C-15) that would, if passed, artificially cap the liability of a nuclear operator for accidents at $650 million – an increase in the current paltry limit of $75 million but still a miniscule fraction of the likely actual cost of a nuclear disaster. In the event of a nuclear accident, Canadian victims would receive significantly less industry compensation than citizens in the US, Germany or Sweden. Bill C-15 is a subsidy to dirty energy. Unlike green energy, the nuclear industry needs a special law to relieve it from paying its own insurance costs creating an unfair playing field for green energy and forcing Canadians to pay for the nuclear industry’s pollution. CELA is strongly opposed to any special legal protection to limit liability costs to the nuclear industry in the event of a nuclear accident and urges the public to write their MPs and oppose Bill C-15.

In light of the oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, CELA also looked at what the responsibility of the Canadian oil industry would be for a major disaster in our marine waters. In several pieces of legislation Canada has imposed a cap on liability for oil and gas exploration, drilling, and shipping in Canada's marine waters, whereby third parties such as tourism operators, fishers and others would have a collective limit on the liability they could claim against the industry. The cap ranges from 25 million to 45 million dollars, depending upon which marine waters in Canada the oil spill might happen. This liability limit is far from adequate. The comparable limit in the United States for oil and gas spills is $75 million which they are now considering raising to $10 billion. Moreover, the initial allocation by BP for the disaster in the Gulf is $20 billion with President Obama insisting that this amount is not a cap. In the meantime the US provision of insurance for a nuclear accident is approximately 11 billion dollars available for such third party claimants harmed by an accident.

In Canada, both the oil and gas and the nuclear industries have been encouraged to develop based on extreme liability protections that are not available in other areas of activity and that leave those industries and their investors free of meaningful responsibility for large scale damage to ordinary Canadians in the event of catastrophic accidents. CELA is therefore gratified to note that the National Energy Board announced on May 11, 2010 a Public Review of Arctic Safety and Environmental Offshore Drilling Requirements. A June 10, 2010 announcement includes more details about preliminary scope of the review (including financing issues) and sets a registration deadline of July 16th.
On-line collection: Nuclear Phase-out. C-15 Facebook page.
For more information:
Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director (416-960-2284 ext 219, theresa@cela.ca)


Eight carcinogens added to CEPA List of Toxic Substances
In a recent expansion of the List of Toxic Substances in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) eight chemicals have been deemed "CEPA-toxic." The chemicals (numbers 86 to 91 on Schedule 1 to CEPA) include Methyloxirane, Ethyloxirane, Naphthalene, three of the toluene diisocyanates, 1,2-Benzenediol (a.k.a. catechol), and 1,4-Benzenediol (a.k.a. hydroquinone). All were found to be carcinogenic in the final assessments and they comprise 8 of 15 chemicals assessed under Batch One of the Chemicals Management Plan and subject to the Industry Challenge. Another chemical that the government had previously proposed for addition to Schedule One was curiously excluded. Propanedinitrile, [[4-[[2-(4-cyclohexylphenoxy)ethyl]ethylamino]-2-methylphenyl]methylene]- (CHDP) had been proposed for virtual elimination as it was found to be persistent, bioaccumulative and inherently toxic to aquatic environments.

The designation of chemicals as CEPA-toxic obligates the Government to develop management measures within two years. CELA and other health and environmental public interest organizations supported the finding of toxicity for these chemicals due to their widespread use in industrial and consumer products including personal care products. For example, methyloxirane and the toluene diisocyanates are used in the production of polyurethane foam for automotive and furniture upholstery, CHDP is used as a colourant, catechol is used in hair colouring and perfumes, hydroquinone in skin lightening products, inks and food production and napthalene is extensively used in pesticides (e.g., mothballs) and in the petroleum sector (e.g., fuel additive, solvent, refinery cleaner). CELA urged the government to consider the development of phase out and elimination strategies for these chemicals. Napthalene has been detected in the Great Lakes basin and should be targeted for additional measures.

Thus far, the federal government has proposed regulatory measures on only CHDP and the three toluene diisocyanates, the latter by way of pollution prevention plans. These proposals are expected to be released for public comments in the coming weeks and CELA will continue to respond and seek full protection for human health and the environment from these and other toxic chemicals.
CELA's response to Batch One Substances; full on-line collection re Chemicals Management.
For more information: Fe de Leon, Senior Researcher, 416-960-2284 ext 223 deleonf@cela.ca


Welcome Progress on POPs
For many months CELA and many other health and environmental organizations have urged the federal government to ratify Amendments to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (letter from CELA; letter from CPCHE). We therefore welcome this week's announcement by the federal government that it intends to ratify the amendments to add nine new substances to the Convention. The completion of the ratification process is essential for Canada to demonstrate its full support for and leadership on the elimination of these nine additional chemicals, among the most toxic substances in use or that remain as toxic legacies from recent phase-outs. They include pentabromodiphenyl ether, octabromodiphenyl ether, hexabromobiphenyl, lindane, alpha hexachlorocyclohexane, beta hexachlorocyclehexane, perfluorooctane sulfonate, chlordecone and pentachlorobenzene. On-line Collection: Persistent Organic Pollutants
For more information:
Fe de Leon / Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researchers (deleonf@cela.ca / kcooper@cela.ca 416-960-2284, ext 223 / 221)


Dramatic Pesticide Reduction in Ontario Streams in First Year After Ontario Cosmetic Pesticide Ban
Preliminary results from urban stream monitoring by Ontario's Environment Ministry and several Conservation Authorities show a dramatic 80% drop in concentrations of lawn care pesticide products. Sampling was conducted in 168 areas before, and a year after, the ban took effect. Locations were chosen that were highly urbanized and with no local point sources such as sewage treatment plants or significant agriculture or golf courses. The fact that lawn care pesticides were measured in urban streams was an important motivation for seeking the Ontario pesticide ban. It is too rare that we can see such an immediate and quantifiable demonstration of our advocacy work.

CELA has played a very significant role for over ten years in arriving at the lawn care pesticide ban in Ontario. This work included our detailed study, published in 2000, addressing standard setting and children's health which contained a detailed case study on pesticide regulation. We presented our findings to parliamentary and senate committees and influenced important reforms to the federal Pest Control Products Act. CELA also intervened on behalf of multiple citizens groups at the Supreme Court of Canada on the Hudson, Quebec bylaw. We collaborated with the Sierra Legal Defense Fund (now Ecojustice) in pointing out the legitimacy of local precautionary action on pesticides as well as the broader implications of that case for other Canadian provinces. When the subsequent Toronto pesticide bylaw was the subject of a legal challenge, CELA raised these important issues again at the Ontario Court of Appeal ensuring that the Toronto bylaw withstood legal challenge, a decision that was confirmed when the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal noting the legal issues had already been settled in the Hudson case. CELA continued to do extensive public legal education work and provided advice to citizens groups across Ontario, and indeed across Canada, seeking to extend the precedent of municipal by laws. Throughout 2007 and 2008, we participated closely with leading health and environmental organizations in Ontario in the successful campaign to achieve the Ontario pesticide ban. CELA will continue to point out cases where there is non-compliance with the law but these dramatic and very gratifying monitoring results reinforce our view that there has been widespread compliance by ordinary Ontarians with the new law. The Environment Ministry intends to journal-publish the results in the near future.
For more information:
Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director, theresa@cela.ca / Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher, kcooper@cela.ca (416-960-2284, ext 219 / 221)


CPCHE Resources Recommended by Health Ministries in Guidance for Implementing Revised Ontario Health Standards
CELA has played a leadership role within the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment (CPCHE) for over ten years, including conducting substantive research and writing many of CPCHE's publications. After extensive consultation and revisions to the Ontario Public Health Standards, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the Ministry of Health Promotion has published guidance documents for local public health departments and Medical Officers of Health on implementing the revised standards. CELA is very pleased to see that environmental health issues are figured prominently in two guidance documents concerning the child health and reproductive health program standards. In addition, CPCHE's Primer on Child Health and the Environment and the CPCHE-Best Start Playing it Safe strategies manual for service providers, both prepared at CELA, are noted by the Ministry as useful resources including recommending CPCHE as a potential policy partner for local public health activities on these topics.
For more information:
Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher (416-960-2284 ext 221 kcooper@cela.ca)


CELA Opposes Ontario Decision to Boost Coal-Fired Electricity Production
In disturbing contradiction to Ontario's Health Ministries recognizing the importance of children's environmental health, and in contradiction of previously strong policy to phase-out coal-fired electricity, the McGuinty government recently permitted Ontario Power Generation to increase coal-fired power plant output by 17%. As the McGuinty government knows well and has often stated publicly, across the field of environmental health, some of the strongest evidence for environmental links to disease is available for air pollution, including premature deaths and the high rate of asthma in children. CELA joins other environmental and health groups in opposing this move to expand the use of these coal plants and urges the public to express their opposition to the Premier.
On-line collection: Energy Conservation and Renewables; Renewable is Doable
For more information:
Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director (416-960-2284 ext 219, theresa@cela.ca)


Walkerton Anniversary Commemorated; Ripple of Change Youth Statement on Conserving and Protecting Ontario Water
On May 16th, Walkerton residents marked the 10th anniversary of the drinking water tragedy with an ecumenical service and walk from Well 5, where the contamination entered the water system, stopping at Brucelea Haven, a seniors' residence, onto the hospital helicopter pad where many of the sick and dying were airlifted to hospitals, and then to the heritage garden created in memory of those who died. Several other community events and projects marked the anniversary including the Walkerton-to-Haiti Clean Water Project, a partnership with Lifewater Canada, a volunteer, non-profit, humanitarian organization that trains and equips the rural poor in developing nations to drill wells and build washrooms. The group is working in Haiti to provide emergency drinking water filtration and donations can help sponsor drilling wells, building a communal washroom, buying a drill rig or organizing a workshop on health and hygiene. Local Walkerton youth are involved with the Ripple Effect Ontario, one of several local youth groups across Ontario working on water issues. Walkerton's Braden Weltz delivered a speech at the ecumenical service and referred to the inspiring Ripple of Change Youth Statement that had been delivered to Premier McGuinty and Environment Minister John Gerretsen on Earth Day.
For more information:
Visit the Ripple Effect website or the Ripp les of Change facebook page


CELA Comments on Rules for Appealing Renewable Energy Approvals in Ontario
Certain renewable energy projects in Ontario -- such as wind farms and solar facilities -- now require a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) under Part V.0.1 of the Environmental Protection Act. However, concerned citizens or organizations may appeal the issuance of such approvals (or terms and conditions therein) to the independent Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on two grounds: (i) that the project will cause serious harm to human health; or (ii) that the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment. Since Ontario Regulation 359/09 imposes a 6 month deadline upon the ERT to hold a public hearing and render its decision in relation to REA appeals, the ERT has recently proposed changes to its Rules of Practice to expedite these proceedings. CELA submitted comments to the ERT that were generally supportive of the proposals, but identified certain Rule changes which required further consideration, revision or deletion.
For more information:
Richard Lindgren, Counsel (613-385-1686; r.lindgren@sympatico.ca)


Continuing to Export Death from Quebec - Government Loan Likely to Support Asbestos Industry
Ignoring the expertise and outrage of health experts and major medical and health organizations in Canada and around the world, the Charest government is set to loan $58 million to Quebec's asbestos industry. As Kathleen Ruff, with Ban Asbestos Canada and senior human rights advisor to the Rideau Institute, notes in a recent op-editorial, this loan will enable the export of 200,000 tonnes of asbestos every year for another 25 years. The result will be a certain, long and painful death for thousands and perhaps millions of people who will be exposed to it.
Write to your MP
and to Quebec Premier Jean Charest and tell them to Ban Asbestos Now.
On-line collection - Ban Asbestos.