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EPA Collaboration with Canada
The United States and Canada have one of the world's oldest and most effective environmental partnerships. The U.S.-Canada border includes four of the five Great Lakes, as well as many rivers and lakes, major airsheds, and migratory routes for wildlife species. In addition, there are many U.S. Native American Tribes and Canadian First Nations residents whose culture spans the border.
The extensive border and the considerable and diverse geography of the ecosystems shared by the two countries requires close cooperation among many U.S. states, Canadian provinces, U.S. Tribes, First Nations, and local and federal governments. The two federal governments have implemented over 40 international agreements for the management and protection of environmental quality and ecosystems in the border area and there are over 100 additional such agreements between U.S. states and Canadian provinces. The two countries also share policies, programs, and goals to prevent and control pollution and to ensure sound policies and practices to protect and restore the many shared ecosystems.
Explore our work on the U.S.-Canada border:
April 2016: The U.S. and Canadian government agencies that work on environmental issues held their semi-annual meeting on April 21 in Washington, DC before the two governments’ meeting with the International Joint Commission (IJC). Led by the U.S. State Department and Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the meeting was an opportunity to discuss bilateral issues of concern, including, among others:
- Implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement;
- Water quality of Lake of the Woods-Rainy River Basin;
- Transboundary water pollution from mines;
- Water-related tribal concerns;
- Ballast water regulation in the Great Lakes;
- A proposed deep geologic repository in Canada; and
- Upcoming bridge replacement projects.
April 2016: On April 7, Administrator McCarthy visited Ottawa as a follow up to recent bilateral commitments regarding climate action, clean energy and enhancing engagement of Arctic and Indigenous communities on climate change, which were made by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau at the White House on March 10th. Accompanied by Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Administrator participated in substantive discussions with Canadian stakeholders including a roundtable discussion with Inuit leaders, and a luncheon meeting with energy sector stakeholders, clean energy advocates, and government officials. Administrator McCarthy also gave the keynote speech at a Town Hall discussion on climate change at the University of Ottawa. The visit included a variety of media events, providing visibility to the new U.S.-Canada relationship on advancing the climate change agenda in North America and internationally, as well as increasing Indigenous engagement on environmental and climate issues.
- Read the Joint Statement released at the conclusion of the meeting.
February 2016: Administrator McCarthy met with Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada to prepare for Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's visit in March 2016. Discussions focused on possible shared commitments and activities related to climate change and the Arctic. The discussion also included seeking opportunities to engage tribes and First Nations in both the Arctic and the U.S.-Canada border area.
Among the many environmental agreements between the United States and Canada, these stand out as most significant:
Boundary Waters Treaty and International Joint Commission
The Boundary Waters Treaty, Exit signed in 1909, established the International Joint Commission (IJC). The Treaty includes the requirement (in Article IV, section 2) that neither country should cause water pollution in its water which will cause injury to health or property in the other country. The IJC assists by implementing the Boundary Waters Treaty, and settling water issues between the two countries. In 1988, the IJC expanded Article IV to include protecting covered watersheds, migratory fisheries, and their habitats. The IJC also assists with other U.S.-Canada agreements, such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement.
The map below indicates 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty watersheds in brown.
The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA)
Originally signed in 1972, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) provides a regional mechanism for cooperation to protect the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem. The GLWQA was last amended in 2012. EPA's Great Lakes National Program has primary responsibility for coordinating these efforts. More information about Great Lakes cooperation on the U.S.-Canada border is available on Binational.net. Exit
U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement
The U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement was signed in 1991 with the goal of reducing air emissions which cause acid rain. It was expanded in 2000 to reduce transboundary smog emissions under the Ozone Annex.
Columbia River Treaty
The Columbia River Treaty [view text from the Center for Columbia River History] Exit has been a significant driver behind diverse economic, public safety and ecological uses of the Columbia River. Since it was signed in 1961, Treaty operations have helped prevent major flood damages and provided for economic development across the basin.
As a direct result of the Treaty, four storage dams were built: Mica, Arrow and Duncan dams in British Columbia, Canada; and Libby Dam in Montana. These four projects more than doubled the storage capacity of the Columbia River system, increased control of the river flow, thereby decreasing the risk of major flooding events downstream, and provided opportunities for releasing water at times needed for power generation and other downstream benefits such as fisheries and water supply.
Under the Treaty, the U.S. and Canada have each designated an entity empowered and charged with the duty to formulate and carry out the operating arrangements necessary to implement the Treaty. The U.S. Entity consists of the administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division Engineer.
Looking to build on the past success of the Treaty, the U.S. Entity led a three-year review process that culminated in a regional recommendation regarding the future of the Treaty. That recommendation was delivered to the U.S. Department of State Dec. 13, 2013, and is undergoing a formal review by the U.S. government.
Other U.S.-Canada Agreements and Programs
Numerous other agreements and partnerships exist between the U.S. and its northern neighbor, Canada. In addition, EPA and other U.S. government and state agencies cooperate with Environment Canada Exit and other Canadian federal and provincial agencies to address issues of common concern along the 5500 mile border. Some of these programs are managed and implemented through the International Joint Commission and some through EPA Program Offices or Regions:
Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River: Exit The International Joint Commission (IJC) is working to develop a new regulation for managing flows on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The current plan, developed in 1963 and based on water conditions in the last century, does not consider environmental consequences and is not adaptable to possible future challenges, such as bigger storms, more severe droughts, and increasing effects of climate change.
Salish Sea: The Salish Sea is the estuarine ecosystem formed by various inland marine waters from southern British Columbia, Canada to northern Washington State, U.S., connected to the Pacific Ocean primarily through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The drainage basin of these waters, sometimes referred to as the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound Watershed, is home to over 7 million people. Since 2002, EPA and Environment Canada, with the involvement of various community groups, have cooperated under the Joint Statement of Cooperation on the Georgia Basin and Puget Sound Ecosystem to protect and conserve the resources and environment of the area. For more information, see the following:
- U.S.-Canada Cooperation in the Salish Sea
- Health of the Salish Sea Ecosystem Report
- Map of Salish Sea Exit
U.S.-Canada Joint Inland Pollution Contingency Plan:
The Canada–United States Joint Inland Pollution Contingency Plan (the “Inland Plan”) sets forth cooperative measures for dealing with a release of a pollutant along the inland boundary of a magnitude that causes, or may cause, damage to the environment or constitutes a threat to public safety, security, health, welfare, or property. The Inland Plan may also facilitate the provision of assistance in the event that only one country is affected, but the polluting incident is of sufficient magnitude to justify a request for assistance from the other country.
The 2009 revised Inland Plan supersedes the 1994 Canada–United States Joint Inland Pollution Contingency Plan, and complements the Canada–United States Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan, which describes a joint response mechanism for any polluting incident that threatens the waters or coastal areas of both countries. The Inland Plan is not intended to supersede any statutory authorities held by either Participant, to create any legally binding rights or obligations under domestic or international law with regard to the Participants or any other entity, or to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable by law or equity against the Participants or any other entity.
The implementation and maintenance of the Inland Plan is the joint responsibility of the Canadian Department of the Environment and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
- Learn more about the U.S.-Canada Joint Inland Pollution Contingency Plan.
- View the Regional Annexes to the Contingency Plan.
Canada-U.S. Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan: The Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan provides a coordinated system for planning, preparing and responding to harmful substance incidents in the contiguous waters of the U.S. and Canada. Implemented by each country’s Coast Guard, the JCP is completed by five Geographic Annexes (Great Lakes, Atlantic, Pacific, Beaufort Sea, and Dixon).
In addition, both governments are active in the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC), Exit the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and numerous global environmental agreements.
The following links exit the site Exit
|Environment Canada||British Columbia||Alberta|
|U.S. Department of State||Embassy Ottawa|
|Commission for Environmental Cooperation Exit||International Joint CommissionExit|