Ministry of Environment

Environmental Management Act (EMA)

The Environmental Management Act (EMA) was brought into force on July 8, 2004. The Act replaces the old Waste Management Act and the Environment Management Act and brings provisions from both of those acts into one statute.

EMA now provides a more flexible authorization framework, increases enforcement options and uses modern environmental management tools to protect human health and the quality of water, land and air in British Columbia. EMA also enables the use of administrative penalties, informational orders and economic instruments to assist in achieving compliance.

Authorizations Under EMA

One of the major changes brought forward with EMA is the way in which the ministry authorizes the introduction of waste into the environment. Under the old Waste Management Act section 3(2) and 3(3) all introductions of waste to the environment, whether from a pulp mill or a car wash, required some form of authorization such as a permit or approval. Under section 6(2) and 6(3) of EMA, only introductions of waste from “prescribed” industries, trades, businesses, operations and activities require authorization. Industries, trades, businesses, operations and activities are “prescribed” in the Waste Discharge Regulation. If an industry, trade, business, activity or operation is not “prescribed” by the regulation, it does not require an authorization to introduce waste into the environment; however, the discharge must not cause pollution (EMA section 6(4)).

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Waste Discharge Regulation

The Waste Discharge Regulation (WDR), which was also brought into force on July 8, 2004, “prescribes” industries, trades, businesses, activities and operations for the purposes of EMA section 6(2) and 6(3). These industries, trades, businesses, activities and operations are listed in Schedule 1 and 2 of the regulation. Industries, trades, businesses, activities and operations listed on Schedule 1 require an authorization, which could be in the form of a permit, an approval, a regulation, an operational certificate, an order or a waste management plan, to introduce waste into the environment. Introductions of waste into the environment from industries, trades, businesses, activities and operations listed on Schedule 2 are eligible to be authorized by a minister’s code of practice.

The Waste Discharge Regulation (WDR) Implementation Guide (PDF/593 KB) has been developed to provide general guidance on WDR.

The purpose of this document is to:

  • provide guidance to ministry staff and others in the application of the Waste Discharge Regulation (WDR);
  • assist persons discharging waste within B.C. to determine their obligations under the WDR;
  • help to ensure appropriate consistency among decision-makers when preparing and making decisions under the WDR; and
  • promote clarity, transparency and accountability in the exercise of statutory functions.

It is important to note that this guide does not have the force of the law, it is only a guide to inform the exercise of statutory decision.

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Minister's Codes of Practice

Codes of practice are ‘minister’s regulations’, which are legally enforceable standards which may apply to industries, trades, businesses, activities or operations listed in Schedule 2 of the Waste Discharge Regulation.

Minister’s codes of practice will provide certainty to users and streamline the Ministry’s authorization process. Codes are intended to have a results-based focus where possible.

The Ministry is currently in the process of developing codes of practice and reviewing existing regulations. For more information on code of practice development and regulatory reviews, visit:

If a minister’s code of practice has not been developed for specific industries, trades, businesses, activities and operations listed in Schedule 2, authorizations such as permits, approvals, plans, are still required.

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Questions and Answers

General Questions

What is the Environmental Management Act (EMA)?

What was wrong with the old act?

Does the Environmental Management Act lessen pollution standards?

Are there new or increased fees under the Environmental Management Act?

But was there not an increase in permit fees earlier this year?

Waste Discharge Regulation (WDR)

What is this regulation?

How did the old Waste Management Act (WMA) work?

What are some of these prescribed operations?

Shouldn't all activities that discharge waste into the environment be regulated and/or require a permit?

Can you give examples of the three risk categories?

What is a code of practice?

What else does the WDR do?

Did you hold consultations in development of this new regulation?

What was their reaction?