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April 23, 2015
 
 

Federal Government Strikes ‘Equivalency Agreement’ with Quebec; Agrees to Stand Down Fisheries Act Wastewater Pollution Regulations

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An Order published in the March 21, 2015 edition of Canada Gazette Part 1 has announced a proposed Canada–Quebec Agreement on Acts and Regulations Applicable to the Quebec Municipal Wastewater Treatment Sector (proposed equivalency agreement).

The proposed equivalency agreement would allow the Governor in Council to stand down the federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (WSER) for those wastewater systems in Quebec that are subject to both federal (WSER) and provincial regulatory requirements and to stand down subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act for any deposit of effluent from the final discharge point of those systems that would otherwise have been regulated by the WSER.

According to the explanatory note published along with the Order in the Gazette, the agreement is possible because Quebec's current regulatory regime for municipally-owned systems results in wastewater system performance that is equivalent in effect to that required by the WSER.

The proposed Order would remove the application of the WSER in Quebec for municipally- and provincially-owned wastewater systems. However, under the proposed equivalency agreement, Quebec and Canada would share information - for example, through an Annual Report to Parliament on the Administration and Enforcement of the Fish Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act.
 
Quebec would provide to Canada written notification of any proposed and actual amendments to Quebec provisions relevant to wastewater systems, and Canada would provide to Quebec information regarding proposed and actual amendments to the Fisheries Act, the WSER, or other relevant provisions. Either party to the agreement may terminate the agreement with at least six months' written notice. Quebec and Canada would also agree that the agreement be evaluated every five years, to ensure continued effectiveness and relevance.
 
As with all Canada Gazette Notices Environment Canada is accepting comments on the proposed equivalency agreement. 
 
Because of the overlapping regulatory authorities Environment Canada is working at streamlining the regulatory process by reaching either similar equivalency agreements with the provinces or administrative agreements - where both federal regulations and provincial requirements remain in force. It establishes one-window regulatory reporting for regulatees and delegates a provincial official to administer certain elements of WSER. Equivalency Agreement is where WSER "stands down" for those regulatees covered by provincial laws so long as those laws are determined to be equivalent in effect to WSER.  For federal and Aboriginal land, WSER remains in force.
 
Enivornment Canada provided the following update on the status of these negotiations. 
 
  1.  WSER Canada - New Brunswick: Administrative Agreement for one-window regulatory reporting and delegation of a provincial official to administer elements of the federal regulation in force (July 2014 - Canada Gazette, Part I)
  2. WSER Canada – Yukon: Equivalency Agreement in force and the Order in Council in effect (November 2014 – Canada Gazette, Part II)
Agreements in development

  1. WSER Canada – Saskatchewan: Final Administrative Agreement for one-window regulatory reporting and delegation of a provincial official to administer elements of the federal regulation on track to take effect summer 2015
  2.  WSER Canada – Québec: Proposed Equivalency Agreement and proposed Order in Council published March 21, 2015 in the Canada Gazette, Part I for 30-day public consultation 
The rest of the provinces/territories are in various stages of negotiation.

 

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