Amendments to the Environment Act Tabled

Environment and Labour (to April 1/08)

May 8, 2006 7:27 PM

One of the most innovative and progressive environment acts in the country is about to become even better.

Carolyn Bolivar-Getson, Minister of Environment and Labour, tabled proposed amendments to the Environment Act today, May 8.

"These amendments to the Environment Act will help us further protect our natural environment, protect our people and contribute to economic prosperity," said Ms. Bolivar-Getson.

The proposed amendments build on the act's strengths in environmental and human health protection and support a level playing field for business. The changes improve compliance and enforcement tools, update current processes, and clarify legislative authority needed to fulfil the act's mandate.

The proposed changes include:

-- improving the way environmental approvals are managed, including clear authority to update terms and conditions of approvals under certain circumstances;
-- increasing the maximum fines for littering, in line with other jurisdictions across Canada. Individuals will be subject to a fine of up to $10,000, and businesses up to $100,000;
-- clarifying and strengthening the environmental assessment process. Updates include allowing a proponent to withdraw a registration and providing authority to amend and transfer an environmental assessment approval. The changes also provide the minister with the authority to suspend an environmental assessment process until it is determined that the proponent is in compliance;
-- allowing the minister to issue a temporary approval where a business is operating without the required approval, and the operation meets specific criteria. The criteria may include low risk to the environment, and a willingness and capacity to make the necessary business improvements;
-- replacing the original Round Table on Environment and Economy, which has not met since 1998, with a round table to advise the department on issues related to environmental sustainability. The new round table will have a more flexible structure to respond to a broad range of environmental issues. A terms of reference will establish the mandate, membership criteria and operational details of this committee.

"The proposed changes will undergo further consultation before becoming law," said Ms. Bolivar-Getson. "In the end, we want these changes to lead to improved protection of human health and the environment."

Ms. Bolivar-Getson said there are other areas where more consultation is needed, before amendments to the act are made. One such area is contaminated sites.

"The provisions for contaminated sites in the act have not been functioning as well as they should have," said Ms. Bolivar-Getson. "In fact, many people have told us so in our earlier consultations and that's why we want to get it right. In early April, we hosted a Brownfields forum, where 220 participants discussed contaminated sites and how to make our processes better. We want to build on these discussions throughout the summer, in hopes of presenting contaminated site amendments in the fall."

A consultation document is available on the Department of Environment and Labour website www.gov.ns.ca/enla (follow link under Public Consultations). The department will receive comments in writing until Sept. 8.


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     One of the most innovative and progressive environment acts

in the country is about to become even better.

     Carolyn Bolivar-Getson, Minister of Environment and Labour,

tabled proposed amendments to the Environment Act today (May

8th).

     Changes include amendments to environmental approvals,

environmental assessments and littering fines.

     Ms. Bolivar-Getson says the proposed amendments build on the

act's strengths in the area of environmental and human health

protection and support a level playing field for business.

     The changes improve compliance and enforcement tools, update

current processes, and clarify the legislative authority needed

to fulfil the act's mandate.

     The proposed changes will undergo further consultation

before becoming law.

     A consultation document is available on the Department of

Environment and Labour website (www.gov.ns.ca/enla) . The

department will receive comments in writing until September 8th.

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Media Contact: Penny McCormick
              Environment and Labour
              902-424-7420
              E-mail: mccormpl@gov.ns.ca