Montreal, 22 December 2011—Following its most recent public meeting, held in November at El Paso, Texas, the Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) released its recommendations to the Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) regarding two issues: the process for citizen submissions on enforcement matters (SEM) and the transboundary movement of hazardous chemicals in North America.
With respect to the first matter, and based on the testimony of submitters who spoke at the El Paso meeting as well as responses to a survey by JPAC of all submitters who have used the SEM process since it was established, JPAC recommends that the CEC Council—composed by the environment ministers of the three NAFTA countries (Peter Kent of Canada; Lisa P. Jackson of the United States and Juan Elvira Quesada of Mexico)—"review the timeliness and accessibility of the process, give more deference to the Secretariat's independent recommendations and interpretations in the process, and follow up on factual records."
In addition, despite the challenges currently faced in the citizen submission process, the citizen committee recognizes that it "has the potential to significantly impact serious yet unresolved environmental health and justice problems," and applauds the Council’s decision to create a SEM Modernization Task Force, calling on the Council to focus its efforts on restoring the process’s credibility and reclaim the public’s trust in its usefulness.
On the second issue, and in light of citizens’ concern for "an alarming increase in toxic waste, and about lead poisoning and other hazardous consequences resulting from the cross-border movement of spent lead-acid batteries to Mexico," JPAC recommends that the Council instruct the CEC to follow up, starting in early 2012, on its December 2007 report, entitled Practices and Options for Environmentally Sound Management of Spent Lead-acid Batteries within North America.
With this, the citizen advisory group seeks to ensure that the CEC takes action to foster compliance with the criteria for environmentally sound management described in that document and to have a report ready for the next Council Session in July 2012.
The full text of JPAC’s recommendations to Council is available online at the CEC website, where you will also find a video of the public forum in El Paso, Texas, and the presentations of the experts who participated at the meeting.