The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was established by Canada, Mexico, and the United States to build cooperation in implementing the environmental measures in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A new report by the CEC examines the environmental impacts of the electricity market.

The report, called Environmental Challenges and Opportunities of the Evolving North American Electricity Market, provides recommendations on how the NAFTA partners can ensure the full economic and environmental benefits of an integrated, continental market.

According to the document, power plants in North America reported the largest toxic releases in 1999 among all reporting industrial sectors. In the U.S., the electricity sector is said to generate 25% of nitrogen oxide emissions, 70% of sulfur dioxide, 25% of mercury, and 35% of carbon dioxide. Demand for electricity is projected to grow by 14% in Canada, 66% in Mexico, and 21% in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009.

Philip Sharp, a senior research fellow at Harvard University and a 10-term former member of the U.S. Congress, chaired the advisory board that guided the study and developed a series of consensus recommendations. These include:

  • Greater public access to information on pollutants emitted by power plants, facility siting criteria, and differences in cross-border environmental standards;

  • Greater North American cooperation in assessing the environmental impacts on air, land, and water from new power plants, both locally and from the long-range transport of air pollution;

  • A framework for a North American emissions trading program for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides; and

  • Development of an emissions trading program to address climate change and promote forest conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

    The advisory board recommends the development and use of renewable energy through increased market-based incentives and funding. Conservation and energy efficiency initiatives, it notes, also need policies and incentives to help address electricity supply in an environmentally sound manner.

    To accomplish these goals, the board recommends creation of a North American fund to promote the adoption of the best available control technologies, energy efficiency measures, and energy conservation.

    To view the comments and access the report, visit

    — Greg Mazurkiewicz

    Publication date: 07/01/2002