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TCPS, Texas Center for Policy Studies Research for Community Action
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Hazardous Waste Report

The Texas Center for Policy Studies has released a new report examining changes in the generation, management and shipment of hazardous wastes in the United States, Mexico and Canada since NAFTA. The report evaluates whether the hazardous waste management industry has become more concentrated in the U.S.-Canada or U.S.-Mexico border regions since 1994 and whether transboundary shipments of hazardous wastes have increased since NAFTA.

The report finds that there has been an ongoing concentration of economic activity, including hazardous waste management, in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Most of this concentration has occurred in Texas, but is largely unrelated to NAFTA. There has also been a significant increase in both the generation of hazardous waste and the number of commercial hazardous waste management facilities located in northern Mexico. In the northern United States, however, there has been a general decline in the generation and management of hazardous waste, while there has been an increase in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

The report also evaluates the transboundary shipment of hazardous wastes. Generally, exports of hazardous wastes from the U.S. have increased to both Canada and Mexico. However, because Mexico prohibits the import of hazardous waste for storage or final disposal, total shipments of hazardous waste between the U.S. and Mexico are smaller than shipments between the U.S. and Canada. Mexico does allow the import of hazardous waste materials for recycling, including metals such as dust from electric arc furnace steel mills and lead from batteries. Exports to Canada have increased since NAFTA as some hazardous waste generators from states such as New York, Michigan and Ohio began to export wastes to landfills, incinerators and treatment facilities in Canada. Fewer regulatory requirements and price differentials appear to be the causes of the increased shipments of hazardous waste to Canada.

The report also includes an appendix, which discusses recent NAFTA-related arbitration cases under the Chapter 11 investor protection measures. This includes the controversial 2000 decision against the government of Mexico, which awarded Metalclad, a U.S. company, with U.S. $16 million in a challenge to Mexico's denial of a hazardous waste landfill permit.

The authors, including TCPS, Proyecto Emisiones, and the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, presented the report's findings to a diverse group of public interest organizations, academics and government officials at the North American Symposium on Understanding the Linkages between Trade and Environment held by the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (NACEC) in Washington, D.C. in October 2000. The NACEC will publish copies of the report in Spanish and French.

Among the recommendations on how to improve the climate for better management of hazardous wastes in the three NAFTA countries, the authors suggest: revisiting NAFTA's Chapter 11 provisions to safeguard the abilities of Parties to set and maintain environmental standards; reopening negotiations on transboundary environmental impact assessments; and improving reporting and tracking of hazardous waste generation and disposal in all three countries. The report also makes specific recommendations for each NAFTA country.

"The most surprising finding of our report was the increase of hazardous waste shipments from the U.S. to Canada," says Cyrus Reed of the Texas Center for Policy Studies, "which appear to be occurring due to the lack of environmental standards and enforcement in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec." "The other important finding was quite simply the lack of basic knowledge of hazardous waste generation in Mexico and Canada and the lack of shared information regarding hazardous waste shipments among the NAFTA countries," adds Reed.

For more information or additional copies of the report, contact: Cyrus Reed
44 East Avenue Suite 306
Austin, TX 78701
512.474.0811 phone
512.474.7846 fax

Click here to view a pdf version of the report.

44 East Avenue, Suite 306, Austin, Texas, 78701, tel. (512) 474-0811, fax (512) 474-7846