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Environmental Planning and Protection Act (No. 40 of 2019)

This Act establishes the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection, provides for the prevention or control of pollution, regulates activities and the administration, conservation and sustainable use of the environment and connected purposes. It promotes best practices in environmental management and to minimize harm to the environment through strategic planning, public consultation and effective policies, contains a mechanism for effective public participation in decision making and the formulation of environmental policy, and promotes and encourages among all persons a better understanding and appreciation of the environment in The Bahamas.

Active transparency (Sections 4, 6, 27, 34, 38 and 39) / Environmental Registry / Pollutant Release Register

The Minister shall establish appropriate mechanisms to facilitate the exchange of information relating to the negotiation, implementation and compliance of Multilateral Environmental Agreements.

The Department of Environmental Planning and Protection shall develop and implement a protocol for formal communication of environmental information and disseminate environmental information and policies to the general public.

Emergencies: Where the Director reasonably believes that a spill or accidental release of a pollutant, hazardous substance or hazardous waste or the threat of such spill or accidental release presents a threat to human health or the environment, the Director shall in coordination with other relevant government agencies notify in such manner as may be effective any person or category of persons who may be adversely affected by such spill or accidental release.

An Environmental Registry is established with records from permits, certificates, annual reports, and information concerning this Act, among others. A person may during the normal working hours of the Department and of payment of the prescribed fee inspect any record contained in the Registry and obtain from the Director a certified copy of any document contained in the Registry. The information is public unless its disclosure would be contrary to the public interest or is subject to a trade secret or confidentiality claim. The Director shall provide a written explanation of any refusal to make information available when requested by a person under this Section.

The Director shall maintain within the Environmental Registry data on the sources of water, air and noise pollution, particularly data that identifies the quantity, conditions or concentrations relevant to the identification of each pollutant.

Public participation (Sections 4 and 6)

For the purposes of overseeing the administration and enforcement of this Act, the Minister shall encourage and facilitate the participation of all persons, non-governmental organizations and local communities in matters relating to environmental planning and protection.

The Department of Environmental Planning and Protection shall foster collaboration and communication among government agencies and relevant stakeholders regarding environmental planning and protection and consult any person outside the Department, local or othwerise, with respect to any matter or submission made under this Act.

Participation in plans, programmes and policies (Sections 6 and 15)

The Department of Environmental Planning and Protection shall develop a national conservation strategy and action plan and to implement them in connection with such other relevant agencies and stakeholders.

The Minister shall circulate the National Environmental Poliy Framework to the public for comment. The Director shall consider the comments from the public and submit a revised Policy Framework to the Minister for approval. The Policy Framework or part thereof may only be amended by the Director where the Director has given notice to the public of its intention to do so by publishing a notice in the Gazette and in at least two daily newspapers in general circulation in The Bahamas, over a period not exceeding twenty days. The notice shall provide a description of the proposed amendment and the reasons for the proposal, the manner in which submisisons on the proposed amendment may be made, the closing date for submissions and the address where submissions should be sent. The Director shall consider submissions and submit the proposed the proposed amendment to the Minister for his consideration and the Minister shall upon approving the amendment publish a notice as to the effective date of the amendment to the Policy Framework and cause a copy of the amended Policy Framework to be lodged in the Enviromental Registry.

Duty to protect the environment (Section 18)

Every person has a duty to maintain and protect the environment. Every person has a duty to inform the Director of any activity that may adversely impact the environment.

Access to justice (Sections 51 and 52) / Active legal standing

Any person who is aggrieved by a violation of this Act or any regulations made thereunder may, with the leave of the court, institute proceedings in a courte of competent jurisdiction against any other person who he reasonably suspects is responsible for that violation. The court may grant leave to institute proceedings to any person or group of persons having a specific interest in the claimed violation of the Act or any regulations made thereunder or any other person or group of persons who can satisfy the court that the proceedings are justifiable in the public interest.

Any person that has knowledge of the commission or reasonable likelihood of an offence under this Act or any regulations made thereunder, may report any information relating to the offence or likely offence to the Director, and the Director shall investigate the report and take such action as necessary.

Environmental education (Sections 6, 19 and 42)

The Department of Environmental Planning and Protection shall promote public environmental awareness and education and educate and inform the general public on the importance of the protection of the environment, environmental matters and concerns.

The Director shall develop programs for public information, education, and training to promote basic understanding of the environment and awareness of, and compliance with the provisions of this Act and any regulations made thereunder.

Access to information (principle 12)

Principle of accountability: The aspirations of the people of The Bahamas for environmental quality should drive environmental improvement. The public should therefore be given access to reliable and relevant information in appropriate forms to facilitate a good understanding of environmental issues and opportunities to participate in policy and programme development.