New Disposal at Sea Regulations Potentially “Damaging”: May

The Harper Conservatives have quietly posted new regulations in the Canada Gazette concerning the disposal of “dredged waste or other matter at sea (disposal at sea).”  This includes the “spoils” from dredging as part of offshore oil and gas projects.

“The new regulations will reduce scrutiny over dumping of hazardous material at sea,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands.  “It is not clear whether the renewed permits for dumping will be accompanied by greater monitoring.”

The regulation changes stem from amendments to Canadian Environment Protection Act (CEPA) in the June, 2012, Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act. Previously, permits issued by the Minister of Environment for projects involving disposal at sea were valid for one year and not renewable.

The recent amendments will require Environment Canada to make decisions within 90 days of the application, will allow permits to be renewed, subject to new criteria, no more than four times for “low-risk, routine” projects.  They also reduce the amount of time that a person has to submit a notice of objection in regard to a permit from 30 to 7 days, starting from the date of publication of the permit.

“This new renewing process with little or no verification and a much shorter time for objections could be very damaging,” said May.

In Canada, an average of three to four million tonnes of material are disposed of annually at sea, mainly to ensure that shipping channels and harbours are kept clear for navigation and commerce.  Substances considered for disposal include dredged material; fish waste and other organic matter; ships, aircraft, platforms, and other structures, and inert, inorganic geological matter.