July 5-12, 2004

Nova Scotia proposes revisions to update Environment Act

Nova Scotia's Department of Environment and Labour has proposed a comprehensive series of amendments to the provincial Environment Act in order to update and strengthen its provisions. Public comments are being invited on the revisions, which are detailed in a document released June 24. Some of the proposals will allow the province to promote and implement innovative and efficient alternatives to direct regulation. Other changes under consideration would increase fines for littering and illegal dumping. The department also wants to remove restrictive language to make it easier to prosecute offenders.

"We're meeting our commitment to make the Environment Act stronger and clearer," said Environment and Labour Minister Kerry Morash. "Many things have changed and much has been learned about environmental law since the act was adopted in 1995."

The proposed amendments address environmental assessment, approvals, environmental management and pollution prevention, solid waste and resource management, industry and product stewardship, and enforcement, as well as other components of the existing legislation. Among other things, the revisions would:

Allow a proponent to voluntarily withdraw a project registration from the environmental assessment (EA) process;

Authorize the minister to amend or revoke EA approvals for projects causing adverse effects or environmental effects which cannot be mitigated;

Give the minister the authority to refer a focus report to the Environmental Assessment Board (not provided under the current act);

Clarify the minister's authority to amend or cancel approvals under predecessor legislation and to add activities to the list of those designated as requiring approval;

Expand the conditions under which the minister may amend, add or remove a term or condition from an approval;

Allow the use of control programs, providing an alternative to prosecution in order to bring unapproved activities into compliance and affording a business time to plan and carry out measures to achieve compliance;

Give the minister the option of requiring, as a term of a ministerial order, the development and implementation of a pollution prevention plan or an environmental management system;

Include consultants in the definition of persons responsible for reporting site contamination or substance releases;

Update and clarify the minister's responsibility for establishing solid waste and resource management programs and strategies;

Allow the minister to enter into agreements to encourage product stewardship, in addition to industry stewardship;

Designate materials to be subject to stewardship programs (this provision could be applied in situations where a voluntary approach and is intended to address industry concerns about an uneven playing field);

Clarify and strengthen the powers of inspectors and expand the list of facilities subject to inspection; and

Enable the court to order an offender to pay inspection costs, over and above any fines imposed.

The summary document containing the proposed changes is available at any Nova Scotia Environment and Labour office, on the department's Web site, www.gov.ns.ca/enla/, or by calling (toll free)1-800-567-7544.

Comments are due by Monday August 23, 2004 and should be directed to Nova Scotia Environment and Labour, Policy Division, 5151 Terminal Rd, 6th Floor, PO Box 697, Halifax B3J 2T8, E-mail policy@gov.ns.ca.

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