Environment Canada ordered to enforce NPRI laws

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Twice last week, the Federal Court of Canada told the Harper government to do its job.

First it was the repatriation of Omar Khadr. Then it ordered the Federal government to include in the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) the publication of all mining pollution data, going back to 2006.

The NPRI details all the industrial and commercial pollutants released into the air, water and land in Canada.

Since 2006, mining companies are required to report all pollutants released during their activities. But in interpreting CEPA, Environment Canada saw an exemption for pollutants present in the tailings and waste rock produced during ore extraction. Never mind that the substances (mercury, sulphuric acid and arsenic) normally associated with those activities are deemed toxic under CEPA.

The Court ruled that the federal government had “erred” in this interpretation, writing that “it is clearly unsatisfactory that such an important part of the pollution picture in Canada is not being reported to the public under CEPA.”

The lawsuit was launched in 2007 on behalf of MiningWatch Canada and Great Lakes United by Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund). The groups alleged that the Minister of Environment was breaking the law by failing to collect and report mining industry pollution information under the NPRI.

Ecojustice has this interesting bit of information:

“In stark contrast, since 1998, the U.S. government has required mining companies to report all pollutants under the American equivalent of the NPRI, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). In 2005, the 72 mines reporting to the TRI released more than 500 million kilograms of mine tailings and waste rock – accounting for 27% of all U.S. pollutants reported. With yesterday’s court decision, pollution data from Canada’s 80 metal mining facilities will now similarly have to be reported under the NPRI.”

Environment Minister Jim Prentice has said the government will comply with the court’s ruling.

More resources at Datalibre.ca