New Report Produced in Collaboration with Legal Experts in Seven Latin American Countries Highlights Policies and Practices that Work to Facilitate the Clean Up of Toxic Pollution; Offers Six Governing Principles for the Region
Multi-national team from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia,
Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and the US
New York, NY, November 20, 2013–A new report commissioned by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP –a collaborative body supported by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Commission, the UN and other agencies and countries), and conducted by The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, examines environmental remediation laws and regulations in seven Latin American countries and the US , and identifies practices that have proven to be particularly effective. The report goes on to distill the best practices into six governing principles that can be used as a model to support successful toxic sites cleanup and management across Latin America.
The report “Regulatory Best Practices for Remediation of Legacy Toxic Contamination” is available for download at www.gahp.net. The report will be shared with governments and agencies in Latin America working to identify, manage and remediate sites contaminated by toxic pollution. (A recording of the press conference, held on Nov. 20, is available on request.)
Well-designed laws can accelerate remediation efforts and prevent future contamination. This report examines the range of legal reforms focusing on the environment that have taken place across Latin America and the US.
The multi-national team that included pro-bono environmental law experts from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and the US examined and analyzed the rules and regulations governing the environment in each of their countries to determine what worked, why and how.
Drawing on examples of lessons learned from these countries, the report condenses the findings into six governing principles, creating a practical legal guide that can be used for further refinement and discussion as environmental remediation laws are implemented, fine-tuned, and modified throughout Latin America.
“In the U.S., the passage of what’s known as the Superfund program was what triggered cleanup. Even then, it took years of fine-tuning and modification to come up with best practices that worked. This report will help accelerate the process for Latin American countries. With effective regulations, cleanup of toxic pollution can happen faster, and more lives will be saved,” says Bret Ericson, Latin America Program Director at Blacksmith Institute, which serves as Secretariat for the GAHP. Blacksmith is an international non-profit organization that works to clean up some of the world’s worst polluted sites.
The six governing principles are:
(*Note: Read full descriptions of the six principals in the report at www.gahp.net)
1) Create clear numeric guidelines for establishing that a site is contaminated
Although contaminated sites are often defined as sites where pollution is present at levels that may present a threat to human health and the environment, it is useful to enact regulations that specifically define what those levels are, so that sites with contamination at or above those levels can be readily identified as candidates for further investigation and remediation, if necessary based on the risk of exposure of vulnerable populations.
2) Utilize commercial triggers to identify contaminated sites
Evaluation of historic contamination should be required when project proponents are applying for facility permits (or modifications to existing permits), when industrial facilities are being bought and sold, and when industrial facilities are being shut down. These commercial triggers will result in the identification of contaminated sites at a time when commercial activity is taking place and funding for investigation and remediation is most likely to be available.
3) Create incentives for voluntary remediation
Laws and regulations should encourage private parties to come forward on a voluntary basis to address legacy contamination on sites that they own and operate, or on sites that they are thinking about acquiring.
4) Create a clear and efficient remediation process
One of the most significant barriers to environmental cleanup is the uncertainty surrounding applicable cleanup standards, the complexity of the process, and the involvement of multiple governmental agencies with actually or potentially conflicting jurisdiction. Experience has shown that published cleanup standards, a simple process for engagement with the government, and clear delineations of which agency has jurisdiction over a particular cleanup will encourage increased private sector participation.
5) Provide meaningful opportunities for public review and comment
Environmental remediation regulations and practices often benefit from input from members of the business community who will be called upon to effectuate cleanups and also by members of the community who live in close proximity to contaminated sites. Site remediation plans may also be more pragmatic and tailored to actual risk if they are subject to prior public review and comment.
6) Develop effective mechanisms to address abandoned sites
Sites that are not subject to commercial activity or voluntary remediation can be the most troublesome from a governmental perspective. Governments should consider creating a registry of such sites so that they can be identified for investigation and evaluated as candidates for future remediation. Sites should be prioritized for cleanup based on a clear methodology established by the government to address those that pose the greatest risk first.
About the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP)
The GAHP is a collaborative body tasked with coordinating resources and activities on chemicals, wastes and toxic pollution in low- and middle-income countries. The vision of GAHP is a world safe from toxic pollution. Its mission is to help low- and middle-income countries, with regards to chemicals and wastes, clean up legacy toxic hotspots, prevent re-contamination and guard against future pollution.
About The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice
The Vance Center advances global justice by engaging lawyers across borders to support civil society and an ethically active legal profession. The Vance Center’s Environment Program promotes collaboration to address environmental challenges through advocacy, research, innovative solutions, and conscientious stewardship of natural resources.
About Blacksmith Institute
Blacksmith serves as Secretariat for the GAHP. Blacksmith is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to solving life-threatening pollution issues in low and middle-income countries. A global leader in this field, Blacksmith addresses a critical need to identify and clean up the world’s worst polluted places, focusing on sites where pollution threatens human health, especially where children are most at risk. www.blacksmithinstitute.org
To learn more about GAHP or this report, please contact