November 21, 2005

DOE, EPA agree to plan for responding to pollution incidents along NB-Maine border

A binational agreement signed November 16 by Environment Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will help agencies better deal with future inland pollution incidents along the border between New Brunswick and the state of Maine. The plan set out under the CanUSEast Annex ensures a co-ordinated, integrated federal response to pollution incidents, supports the provincial, territorial, regional, and state emergency plans of both countries, and provides for assistance when only one country is affected but the extent of the spill justifies a request for assistance.

"By signing the CanUSEast Annex we formalize our contingency plans and clearly demonstrate our collective readiness to deal with pollution incidents that could occur along our shared borders," said Garth Bangay, regional director general for Environment Canada's Atlantic region. "Our ability to more effectively and efficiently respond to future pollution incidents by using a shared plan and combined resources, will protect the environment, and in turn protect the quality of life and the economic prosperity of Canadian and American citizens in the affected areas."

U.S. EPA regional administrator Robert Varney agreed that the Annex greatly enhances the two countries' joint capabilities. "As part of binational emergency preparedness and, as needed, for emergency response along the Canada-U.S. inland border, under the Canada-U.S. Joint Inland Pollution Contingency Plan, it is vital that EPA and Environment Canada are prepared to quickly engage in a coordinated, effective manner to address major environmental issues along our border," he said.

Canadian and U.S. officials have long recognized the high probability of an oil spill or the unintentional release of other hazardous substances along their common inland border. The newly signed CanUSEast Annex is the fourth of five regional annexes to the Canada/US Joint Inland Pollution Contingency Plan, signed in 1994 by Canada's Environment Minister and the U.S. EPA Administrator.

The Annex agreement was signed under the umbrella of Project Green, a set of federal government policies and programs aimed at supporting a sustainable environment, healthy population and competitive economy. More information is available from Roger Percy, regional environmental emergencies co-ordinator for Environment Canada's Atlantic region office, 902/426-2576.

In related activities, the federal government has introduced Bill C-78, the new Emergency Management Act. The legislation would repeal the existing Emergency Preparedness Act and replace it with the Emergency Management Act which, while building on the concepts found in the Emergency Preparedness Act, would strengthen the government's ability and readiness to prepare for, mitigate the impact of, and respond to all hazards in Canada.

Bill C-78 provides for a comprehensive, all-hazards approach to emergency management by:

*reflecting the elements of modern emergency management (mitigation/prevention, preparedness, response and recovery, as well as critical infrastructure protection);

*emphasizing the need for a co-ordinated and integrated approach to emergency management activities within the federal government;

*enhancing co-operation with other jurisdictions and the private and voluntary sectors by promoting a common approach and information-sharing; and

*protecting critical infrastructure information provided by the private sector to the government.

The new act also clarifies the roles of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and other federal ministers, and provides for the establishment of standardized elements for emergency management plans within the federal government.

Critical infrastructure consists of physical and information technology facilities, networks, services and assets that are vital to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians or the effective functioning of governments in Canada. This would include facilities such as water treatment plants and nuclear power stations.

The proposed legislation may be viewed on-line at www.parl.gc.ca.

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