11–12 November 2014, public meeting in Mexico City of the CEC’s North American Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Project
Ministers commemorate the last 20 years and announce future priorities for the institution
The webcast has concluded and a recorded version is available online.
The following seven principles will guide implementation of the RAP. The principles are listed in no particular order. In applying the principles, the rights and responsibilities of the three countries must be considered. The principles will be applied in a broad, integrated manner, reflecting the complementary range of values and objectives represented.
Principle #1: Sound Regional Environmental Management
The countries share responsibility for protecting and enhancing the region's ecosystems and reducing risks of harm to human health and the environment from exposure to chemicals throughout North America. This responsibility applies to domestic management and transboundary movement of all chemicals of concern, not just PCBs. Management strategies for PCBs must be consistent with and designed to advance the overall goal of sound environmental management for all chemicals of concern in North America.
Principle #2: Life Cycle Management of PCBs
Proper management of chemicals of concern cannot rely only on assuring environmentally sound management of treatment/disposal of wastes. The PCB RAP will address "cradle to grave" management of PCBs. This should include managing PCB use, the appropriate phase-out of uses, and the transport, storage, and treatment/disposal of PCB wastes.
Principle #3: Pollution Prevention
An essential element of sound management of PCBs is preventing pollution that may be caused by the release of PCBs to the environment. Pollution prevention involves the use of processes, practices, materials, or products that avoid or minimize the creation of pollutants and waste and that reduce the overall risk to human health or the environment. The universe of PCBs is finite in the sense that PCB manufacture has been banned; to ensure that the universe grows ever smaller and to protect human health and the environment, those PCBs that do exist must be managed appropriately to prevent any inadvertent releases. The countries, through implementation of the RAP, will promote pollution prevention as an effective strategy for managing PCBs and protecting human health and the environment.
Principle #4: Shared Regional Management of PCB Wastes
In ensuring sound regional management of PCBs, the countries recognize and seek to uphold three complementing principles that underlie the Basel Convention through the "Framework Document on the Preparation of Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of Wastes": the "proximity principle," the "self-sufficiency principle," and the "least transboundary movement principles."
The Framework Document emphasizes that these three principles should be considered jointly and in balance in recognition of their inherent interrelationships. The principles may be summarized briefly as follows. The proximity principle encourages the management of hazardous wastes in greatest possible proximity to their point of generation, recognizing that economically and environmentally sound management of some wastes will be achieved at specialized facilities located at greater distances from the point of generation.
The self-sufficiency principle encourages countries to ensure that the disposal of waste generated within their territory is undertaken in an environmentally sound manner, recognizing that economically sound management of some wastes outside of national territories also may be environmentally sound. The least transboundary movement principle encourages countries to reduce the transboundary movements of hazardous waste to a minimum consistent with efficient and environmentally sound management.
In applying these principles to the management of PCBs in North America, the countries recognize that the existing infrastructure for PCB management throughout the region influences the management decisions made. The countries recognize that there currently exists a disparity in the distribution of fixed PCB treatment/disposal capacity in the region.
The countries therefore seek to apply the above-mentioned principles in a balanced manner to ensure the environmentally sound management of PCBs in the region, optimizing PCB management overall in light of factors that currently may constrain management options in individual countries. On an ongoing basis, the countries agree to address PCB management needs, in light of the above three principles, proactively and for the long term.
In considering current regional PCB management capacity specifically, the countries recognize that the universe of PCB wastes is finite and diminishing over time (PCB manufacture has ended and most PCB uses eventually will be phased out). The countries therefore believe that PCB management infrastructure needs must be considered in the context of overall hazardous waste management. The countries believe, however, that delaying the management of existing PCB wastes until new PCB management capacity is developed in currently unserved areas could prolong the risks posed to human health and the environment by those stored wastes.
In considering the proximity principle and the least transboundary movement principle in light of the current distribution of PCB management capacity, the countries agree that the shared use of existing PCB and multiple-use (i.e., both general hazardous waste and PCB waste) treatment/disposal capacity will ensure the environmentally sound management of PCB wastes. The proximity principle, in particular, takes on special dimensions when applied to North America: treatment/disposal facilities in the US or Canada clearly are closer to PCB wastes in Mexico than the European facilities on which Mexico currently relies.
Similarly, some US management capacity may be closer to some Canadian wastes than current Canadian fixed capacity, and vice versa. The countries will support the objective of environmentally sound regional management of PCBs by implementing a managed border approach that ensures environmentally sound transboundary waste movement within North America for those wastes that must cross borders to proximate PCB management capacity. The countries as well recognize that mobile destruction systems, currently in various stages of development and commercialization in the three countries, also can help to address the proximity principle and least transboundary movement principle.
The implementation of the RAP, as detailed in the action items described in Section III, Regional PCB Management Strategies, therefore will ensure that these three principles are applied in concert to ensure the environmentally sound management of PCB wastes in reasonable proximity to their current location.
Principle #5: Consistency with International and Domestic Obligations
The RAP takes into account consistency with international obligations as well as the specific domestic requirements in each of the three countries. Existing international obligations (including United States/Canadian and United States/Mexican bilateral agreements dealing with hazardous waste movement; the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste and their disposal, governing obligations between Canada and Mexico; and OECD Council Decisions accepted by the three countries) already address some aspects of hazardous waste and PCB management, including transboundary shipment. These international obligations and agreements will guide the implementation of the RAP.
Domestic regulations must also be satisfied in each country and taken into account in the implementation of the PCB RAP. The PCB RAP will provide for exchange of information and transfer of technology among the Countries to facilitate understanding of domestic requirements and promote international consistency where appropriate.
Principle #6: Transfer of Technology
A key component of the RAP will be regular exchange of information on PCB management among the three countries. By promoting a common understanding of the environmental impacts of PCBs and environmentally sound PCB management techniques, the countries will promote consistency in PCB management and contribute to a "level playing field" throughout North America.
Principle #7: Periodic Review and Reassessment
To ensure that implementation of the RAP achieves the goals set for it and that those goals continue to remain relevant to the environmental management needs of the three countries, the RAP and progress under the RAP will be reviewed periodically. The mechanism and frequency for such review will be established by the three countries in coordination with the CEC through implementation of the RAP. Such review will provide for participation and comment by the public in the three countries.