GAC Response Letter, February 6, 2004
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 176 or 205 Jefferson St.
Jefferson City, Missouri 65101
Dear Mr. Mahfood:
Thank you for the Governmental Advisory Committee's (GAC) October 28 advice in follow-up to your October meeting. Your advice on the 2004-2006 Operational Plan; the five proposed U.S. strategic priorities; the NAFTA technical working groups; the CEC ten-year retrospective; and the article 14/15 citizen submissions procedure has been considered in great depth over the last several months, and through the negotiations of the 2004-2006 CEC Operational Plan.
On behalf of the EPA Administrator and United States, we offer the following response to your advice.
CEC 2004-06 Operational Plan
Thank you for your thoughtful advice on the framework of the CEC 2004 Operational Plan. We are in full agreement with your advice on thinking strategically and working as a catalyst for other groups to carry out the policy recommendations developed by the CEC. We have consulted with Canada and Mexico on your request to alter the Operational Plan to better represent the political status of first nations throughout North America, and we are working to ensure that this change will be reflected in the final version of the Operational Plan.
As for the objective in the Secretariat's proposal, "developing a plan to increase communication with trade agencies and the Free Trade Commission," the U.S. is supportive of strengthening the relationship between the CEC and the NAFTA Free Trade Commission, and of strengthening relationships within governments between the trade and environment agencies in order to facilitate this connection. In order to accomplish this most effectively, the Parties have allocated funding to the development of a strategic plan on trade and environment. This activity, which you will find described in Goal 1, Objective B, Strategic 1 of the finalized Operational Plan, will work to develop long-range, productive activities that all Parties can agree to in the area of trade and environment. We also hope that these activities will foster agenda topics on the connection between trade and environment that could be used for a potential trade and environment ministerial.
U.S. Strategic Approach to the CEC
We appreciate your consideration of the five proposed U.S. priorities for the CEC. These priorities will be further clarified in the coming months, taking into consideration the conclusions of the ten-year review. Ultimately, they will become the U.S. position in the discussions, at the Alternate Representative level, which will determine the long-term strategic direction of the CEC. Your advice, including your views on sustainable use and conservation of freshwater resources, will be taken into consideration in this process.
You will be pleased to hear that the Office of International Affairs has strengthened our interagency process in the last several months, a process which has been advanced through the negotiations on the CEC Operational Plan. No less than ten agencies participated in these negotiations. Through the development of the U.S. strategic approach to the CEC, and the development of the CEC Strategic Plan, we will continue to build a robust and active interagency process dealing with the CEC portfolio.
The Office of International Affairs has also responded to your advice to provide more staff and resources to CEC work. We have recently hired an additional full-time staff person for CEC work, and we look forward to welcoming a new team leader within the month.
NAFTA Technical Working Groups
We appreciate the GAC's input on these Committee and technical working group activities associated with the NAFTA and under the gamut of the FTC. Given that many EPA and governmental staff are involved with both CEC and NAFTA Committee and Technical Working Group activities, we coordinate inputs to these respective groups and will continue to do so.
Over the years, the NAFTA Technical Working Group on Pesticides (TWG) has coordinated several of its activities with relevant CEC program areas. For example, the TWG has provided valuable input to the Sound Management of Chemicals work on lindane such as scientific review information from the re-evaluation of lindane in the United States and Canada. The TWG has also been involved in the CEC Children's Environmental Health initiative, most recently as a co-sponsor of the 2003 risk assessment workshop held in Oaxaca, Mexico with TWG members participating in the planning and execution of this successful event. While TWG meetings have been informally announced within CEC venues, we will explore posting of future TWG meeting announcements on the CEC Calendar of Events, as well as adding a direct link to the TWG websites on the CEC home page. In the meantime, please note that both EPA and the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) maintain TWG websites, featuring the most recent five-year strategy and companion workplan document for the TWG at the following locations:
- EPA TWG Website at www.epa.gov/oppfead1/international/naftatwg/
- PMRA TWG Website at www.hc_sc.gc.ca/pmra_arla/english/intern/twg_e.html
In response to the GAC's request, please find attached a copy of the TWG's Terms of Reference (TORs) issued in 1997. You will note that paragraph 3 (i) of the TORs relates to two other issues raised by the GAC, namely public participation and transparency. While the TWG holds public meetings with interested stakeholders on an annual basis and routinely disseminates relevant TWG documents and information, EPA welcomes specific suggestions from the GAC regarding further opportunities for robust public participation and increased transparency.
EPA recognizes the importance of coordinating on automobile emissions issues with Canada and Mexico. The Automotive Standards Council (ASC) is the appropriate forum to conduct technical discussions and determine if policy issues need to be raised for further discussions with country-specific governmental representatives or with NAFTA coordinating bodies. However, the most appropriate body for addressing auto emissions harmonization issues resides in the United Nations (UN). EPA was instrumental in the development of a global agreement under the UN that is intended to reduce the divergence of regulations from all parts of the world and thereby promote the free flow of trade in the automotive sector. EPA is committed to advance global harmonization of motor vehicle environmental regulations through the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29). EPA has been working on a continuous basis with Canada, both in North America and within the UN World Forum, to reduce divergence of our respective regulations.
In addition, EPA has and continues to provide assistance to Mexico, as requested, in all aspects of air pollution, including that produced by motor vehicles. We appreciate the recommendation for Mexico officials to attend ASC meetings and will encourage this where possible. The U.S. has also raised and continues to encourage its Mexican counterparts to participate in the UNECE WP 29.
Ten-Year Review of the CEC
Thank you for your comments and suggestions on the work of the Ten-year Review Advisory Committee (TRAC), and its ten-year review. Your suggestions have been forwarded to the TRAC for their consideration. We have also done a records search to find the letters of the NAC and GAC and our responses to your advice, and these letters have been forwarded to the TRAC for their consideration.
Articles 14/15 Citizen Submissions Procedure
We appreciate your advice regarding the Articles 14/15 Citizens Submissions process. The U.S. remains committed to this very important tool of public participation, and will continue working with the other CEC Parties, the Secretariat, and the public to ensure that the process remains consistent with the letter and intent of the NAAEC. The U.S. also recognizes the need for open and responsive engagement, and we are continuing discussions with the other Parties to adopt an appropriate procedure for a thorough, public review of CR 00-09, as well as the general operation of the Articles 14/15 process. The outcome of the review, coupled with the important advice provided by our advisory groups, will inform the Council as it determines whether any changes in procedure or practice will be necessary to improve the effectiveness of the public submissions provisions of the NAAEC. In addition, your suggestions for further follow-up by the Enforcement Working Group (EWG) on this issue have been forwarded to that group for their consideration.
Thank you again for your thoughtful advice on strengthening the work of the CEC, and your ongoing work to address environmental challenges in North America. I have attached a list of CEC contacts that you can get in touch with to discuss these topics in greater detail. In addition, if you have any general concerns, I encourage you to contact Evonne Marzouk of my staff at 202-564-7529 or Oscar Carrillo of the Office of Cooperative Environmental Management (OCEM) at 202-233-0072. I look forward to your continued involvement with the CEC in the coming years.
Judith E. Ayres
cc: GAC Members