Response Letter, February 2006
February 15, 2007
M. Dolores Wesson
Chair, U.S. National Advisory Committee
Coastal Observing Research and Development Center
Marine Physical Laboratory
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
La Jolla, CA 92093-0202
Dear Ms. Wesson:
On behalf of Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, I would like to thank you for the National Advisory Committee's (NAC) November 15, 2006 letter reporting on its October 2006 meeting and providing valuable advice to the United States on the CEC Operational Plan for 2007-09.
We appreciated the NAC's advice on the CEC Operational Plan, including specific comments on the projects related to Tracking Pollutant Releases and Transfers in North America; Mapping North American Environmental Issues; Sound Management of Chemicals; Building Local Capacity for Integrated Ecosystem Management and to Conserve Critical Species and Spaces; and general issues related to the plan. Your advice was considered by our CEC coordinating team, and by U.S. experts and program coordinators, as we concluded negotiations on the 2007 Operational Plan. The advice will be also considered further as the new Operational Plan takes effect in the coming year. Additionally, some of your comments will be very helpful as we begin to revise the format and structure of the CEC Operational Plan, in our negotiations for 2008.
On behalf of the EPA Administrator and the United States Government, I am pleased to offer the following response to the NAC's advice:
General issues related to the Operational Plan
Thank you for your advice regarding improvement to the structure and format of the CEC Operational Plan. We have taken great efforts to continue our focus on the CEC's strategic priorities - information for decision making, capacity building, and trade and environment - in the 2007 Operational Plan. We are examining projects closely to ensure that they meet all three of the CEC pillars. As we continue this process, we also anticipate some turnover of projects in the 2008 Operational Plan.
We agree with your recommendations for the inclusion of past accomplishments and justifications for new projects in the Operational Plan. In the 2007 Plan, a number of projects were significantly improved in this way, and we will continue to encourage the Secretariat to include these details in the coming year. We also support your recommendation for criteria for judging new projects. In fact, we are in the process of negotiating project criteria with Canada and Mexico, for example to ensure that projects have a catalyzing effect, are North American in scope, and reflect the priorities of the three parties.
While we understand your suggestion that the Operational Plan be evaluated on a triennial basis, this is not feasible as a result of the nature of the CEC funding process. The budget is approved annually, and none of the Parties can make multi-year commitments to any project budget. The purpose of the three-year plan is to demonstrate the multi-year vision of the CEC.
We agree with your recommendation that a robust strategy for outreach and communications should be devised for the entire CEC. We are exploring ways to develop this strategy and we hope that the NAC-GAC "Visioning Session" as part of your Spring 2007 meeting will be helpful in this regard. Additionally, we support increasing partnerships with indigenous communities and academic institutions to yield new opportunities for projects and promotion of the CEC. In regard to your recommendation in support of the North American Fund for Environmental Cooperation (NAFEC), while this is not an immediate priority for the Council, we are considering how grants to environmental groups in local communities could be integrated into existing projects.
Tracking Pollutant Releases and Transfers in North America
Thank you for your support for the project on Tracking Pollutant Releases and Tranfers in North America. We agree that outreach to different audiences is important, and will continue to reach out to various audiences as resources permit. As you indicated, the logical progression of the project will lead to the inclusion of more chemicals, mobile and agriculture sources, and greater compatibility among all three countries, to the extent that these actions are consistent with individual national program priorities.
Thank you for your advice to enhance Taking Stock by allowing for greater comparability of facilities, identifying facilities at a smaller geographic scale, providing references to information on best practices for facilities subject to PRTRs, and ensuring long-term availability and public access to the data set for analyzing trends. This advice is consistent with the PRTR Project plans.
We also agree with your recommendation that EPA's TRI Program provide a more prominent link from its main webpage directly to the "Taking Stock Online" webpage. EPA's TRI Program currently is redesigning its website, including the international section. During the redesign we will look at including a direct link to Taking Stock. We will also encourage the Secretariat to work with other organizations that host PRTR websites to provide links to the CEC's "Taking Stock Online" webpage.
Mapping North American Environmental Issues
Thank you for your recommendation to consider adding energy, water infrastructure, and a sea level rise layer for the North American Continent per the projections of the United Nation's WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We will consider these suggestions as new layers for the Atlas are developed.
Sound Management of Chemicals
Thank you for your recommendations regarding stakeholder involvement in the SMOC prioritization process. Please note that the stakeholders' consultation meeting is currently planned for the week of April 16 in Monterrey, Mexico. All NAC (and GAC) members are invited to participate.
The CEC Secretariat will be posting information in the web site, and as regular practice, we'll accept comments ahead of the meeting and after the meeting. Given the CEC's Operating Plan process, several of the projects proposed by stakeholders might not be operational until 2008, giving enough time to solicit input in different forms. In addition to seek input from the Taking Stock Consultative group, we'll be seeking opportunities to organize a joint meeting between the Taking Stock Consultative group and the SMOC Working Group in the near future. Finally, we look forward to working with you to extend invitations to past NAC/GAC members to participate in the SMOC prioritization process.
Building Local Capacity for Integrated Ecosystem Management and to Conserve Critical Species and Spaces
We agree with your recommendation that a greater effort be made to partner with academia and community-based institutions in all aspects of this project whenever possible. We are interested in seeing sustainable and economic trade and preservation taught as part of engineering, science, economics, policy and international law programs, and we intend to explore project-specific opportunities to engage academia. We will also explore engaging NGOs and grassroots organizations to promote CEC work at a local level and in native languages, for example when working with indigenous communities.
As always, the United States appreciates the advice of the National Advisory Committee, which helps us to create a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable North American environment for future generations. We are interested in working with the GAC and the NAC in the proposed "visioning session" for your spring meeting. I have attached our working proposal for this session, and I hope the NAC will have the opportunity to work with EPA to provide feedback and develop an effective agenda for this meeting. We look forward to a robust discussion in Spring 2007.
Judith E. Ayres
|cc:||Plácido dos Santos, Chair, U.S. Governmental
Carlos Sandoval Olvera, Chair, Joint Public Advisory Committee
Members of the U.S. National Advisory Committee