October 23, 2006

Adoption of CWS for coal-fired power plant mercury emissions highlights CCME meeting agenda

Environment ministers from the federal, provincial and territorial governments, meeting in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories October 12 and 13, adopted a new Canada-wide standard (CWS) for mercury emissions from coal-fired electric power generation plants. These facilities represent the largest single source of mercury emissions in Canada from human activity.

The CWS includes two sets of emission reduction targets: the first, to come into effect in 2010, will establish provincial and territorial caps on emissions from existing plants, cutting emissions from the current estimate of 2,695 kg per year (based on utility monitoring program results from 2002 through 2004) to 1,130 kg/yr. This represents a 60% national capture of the mercury emitted from coal-powered plants (70% taking into account recognition for early action).

The CWS also sets more stringent capture rates for new facilities, based on BATEA, the use of the best available technologies economically achievable. Required capture rates will range from 75 to 85%, depending on the type of coal burned, with emission rates varying from three to 15 kg per terawatt-hour, also depending on coal type. A future phase of the CWS may explore the capture of 80% or more of mercury from coal burned for 2018 and beyond.

As part of the CWS, the leading coal-burning jurisdictions - Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia - have set out action plans for achieving the established targets.

The ministers also expressed their support for a Canada-wide municipal wastewater strategy currently being developed under their guidance, and directed their ministries' officials to consult with municipalities, Aboriginal communities, system operators, environmental organizations and other interested parties this fall and winder on key elements of the strategy.

Insufficiently treated municipal wastewater effluent is one of the largest sources of pollution, by volume, discharged to surface water bodies in Canada. The developing strategy is intended to establish discharge limits so Canada's water bodies are protected, to harmonize regulatory requirements across the country, and to propose sustainable funding mechanisms for its implementation. Stakeholder consultations will round out the strategy with full information on costs and potential funding mechanisms.

"It's timely to engage our municipal partners and other organizations that have an important stake in the issue," said Saskatchewan Environment Minister and outgoing CCME president John Nilson. "We need their ideas so that the strategy is both practical and effective. I'm sure that their expertise will add significant value to the proposal as it develops."

Packaging waste was another focus of discussion by the ministers, who agreed to continue investigating opportunities to reduce packaging in Canada. This initiative will address packaging content, reduction in the amount of packaging and the management of waste packaging, including re-use and recycling.

Finally, the ministers committed to a continued effort to seek options for improving environmental assessment processes in Canada by developing a streamlined regulatory approach with the most efficient possible delivery.

This year's CCME meeting was the first to be held jointly with the Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers (CCRM). Michael Miltenberger, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources for the Northwest Territories and host of the meeting, stressed its importance and relevance.

"With the increase in development activities in Canada, we must ensure our programs maintain the variety of animals and plants for people in Canada," he said. "Hosting this meeting in the Northwest Territories," he continued, "provided Ministers from across Canada an opportunity to see how important this work is, especially to northern residents who rely on these species for subsistence and economic needs."

The joint meeting was deemed by participants to be a highly productive event, with the two councils' ministers agreeing on a number of initiatives required to sustain Canada's biodiversity and protect species at risk. Their first point of consensus was a national policy framework for the protection of species at risk: they assigned priority to implementing the framework through a variety of initiatives. The ministers also noted significant progress on completing bilateral co-operation agreements pertaining to species at risk.

The meeting agenda included review of a report on the status of Canada's protected areas, which the ministers agreed to release in the near future. The report documents clear progress being made by all of Canada's jurisdictions in the establishment and management of the nation's parks and other protected areas. Together, governments have set aside close to one-tenth of Canada's lands in protected areas, a 19% increase over the last five years. The ministers endorsed further action to enhance protected areas and directed future collaborative work towards this objective.

In addition, they approved a biodiversity outcomes framework for Canada. Developed jointly by federal, provincial and territorial governments, this framework will be used to influence and connect the substantial amount of biodiversity-related work taking place across Canada. It will be used as a tool to help monitor and report on progress and assist governments in more directly engaging Canadians in conservation planning, implementation and reporting.

The ministers further acknowledged the release of Wild Species 2005, the second five-year report on the status of wild species in Canada. As well, they received the first report on the implementation of the Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) on the status of species at risk in Canada also presented its annual report to Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC), which consists of federal, provincial and territorial ministers with responsibilities for wildlife species. The CESCC ministers acknowledged COSEWIC's work and offered recommendations to guide its work in the coming year. finally, the CESCC Ministers approved the release of the annual RENEW report, which reviews actions to recover species at risk.

The CCME sessions concluded with the installation of New Brunswick Minister Roland HachÈ as CCME president for 2006/07. The hosting of next year's joint CCME/CCRM meeting will be determined following future discussions. More information is available from Carl Hrenchuk of the CCME secretariat, 204/948-2172, or on the CCME Web site, www.ccme.ca.

At the same time, another interdepartmental meeting brought together forest ministers from across Canada to discuss issues relating to ensuring the sustainability of the forest industry. The annual Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) meeting called attention to the need for a more co-ordinated effort to address challenges facing the industry in Canada today, as well as the need to move forward on national strategies for dealing with forest pests and wildland fires. The latter issue, said the ministers, is a top priority, and they directed that actions be undertaken to implement the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy.

The ministers also approved a plan for the development of the next forest strategy. Intended will replace the current National Forest Strategy, which ends in May 2008, the new strategy will build on existing initiatives, socioeconomic changes and impacts on forest communities. It will meet Canada's international responsibilities, while demonstrate continuing leadership by the CCFM.

As part of their meeting, the CCFM released a new report on sustainable forest management, Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in Canada: National Status 2005. It shows areas in which Canada is making progress and others in which improvement is needed. For example, although we are continuing to manage our forests to provide economic and social benefits, the report calls for greater efforts to protect them from pollution and exotic invasive species.

"With the active participation of those interested in the future of Canada's forests, the CCFM can address the challenges we are facing," said the Stan Struthers, Manitoba Minister of Conservation and incoming CCFM chair. "Ultimately, our collective efforts will result in significant benefits for Canadians, while contributing to the overall natural resources landscape," he added.

More information is available on the CCFM Web site, www.ccfm.ca.

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