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International Cooperation

Capacity-Building Programs Under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR)

The United States signed the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) in August 2004 with five Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) and the Dominican Republic. As a global partner in trade and the environment, Central America and the Dominican Republic represent a priority region for U.S. environmental cooperation. 

Recognizing the importance of protecting the environment while promoting sustainable development, the Governments negotiated an associated Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA), which is the basis for our environmental cooperation. EPA implements this ECA through an action plan developed in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of State, and the CAFTA-DR countries. 

Presently, EPA is providing technical assistance under Pathways to Prosperity/CAFTA-DR in the areas of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Wastewater Regulations, Solid Waste Management, Enforcement and Compliance and Enhancing Capacity for Low Emissions Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) in Costa Rica.  


Explore our CAFTA-DR work in the following sections: 


November 2014:  In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resource of Dominican Republic (DR), EPA organized the Regional Forum on Best Practices in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Related Permitting and Enforcement.  Over 50 Directors of EIA, enforcement, geographic information system (GIS)/ Information Technology (IT), and public outreach from 14 countries and 5 International Organizations gathered for three days to compare best practices, explore lessons learned and share solutions to common challenges.  The goal of the forum was to strengthen EIA review in CAFTA-DR countries.

The Forum helped EPA explore a more integrated approach to addressing weaknesses in the EIA processes.  Forum results are to be developed collaboratively, with a report and recommendations to the Ministers.  The DR Ministry of Environment hosted the Forum, as part of EPA’s program under CAFTA-DR funded by USAID.  

November 2014: With EPA’s technical assistance, El Salvador launched a new program of reforms for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and related environmental permitting and enforcement.  This reform package can serve as a model for other countries that are seeking to advance environmental permit programs, environmental impact assessment and enforcement. 

The launch event, hosted by El Salvador’s President and Minister of the Environment, included over 300 invitees.  The event initiated the public release of VIGEA, El Salvador’s version of NEPAssist; demonstrated the online permit application process; and presented the program of reforms in detail. 

August 2013: The action plan for the new Pathways to Prosperity/CAFTA-DR environmental program (2012-2017) was approved by USAID.  Under the new agreement, EPA will continue its environmental collaboration in the areas of: EIA, wastewater and solid waste management, and Enhancing Capacity for Low Emissions Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) in Costa Rica. 

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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The EIA process provides a systematic means to identify the potential negative environmental consequences of specific proposed actions and formulate alternative means to achieve the same purpose with fewer environmental impacts as well as develop effective mitigation or compensatory measures for the negative environmental impacts that are unavoidable. EPA continues to provide EIA technical assistance to the CAFTA-DR countries’ Ministries of Environment and their EIA Directors to  strengthen environmental impact assessment preparation and EIA reviews for effective decision-making. EPA’s assistance is focused on:
  • Country-specific and regional reforms through EIA; 
  • Technical assistance for the NEPAssist Geographic Information System-web screening tool;
  • EIA Process Administrative Tracking;
  • Technical Review Guidelines on EIA; and
  • EIA Review Process through recommended regional and country-specific reform agendas.

Wastewater Model Regulation

EPA provides technical assistance to the CAFTA-DR countries in the development of a regional model wastewater regulation, as part of the Harmonization of Environmental Regulations, Policies and Procedures program. 
All countries have begun implementation of at least two of 12 basic elements to implement a wastewater management program, and have been provided with tools to establish wastewater discharge parameters for key industrial sectors in the region. 
In addition, EPA has trained wastewater labs in the region on ISO 17025 Water Quality Standards, leading to the selection of a regional and four national Reference Labs. EPA is also completing a manual on appropriate wastewater treatment for the region. 

Solid Waste Management 

EPA collaboration with the CAFTA-DR countries aims to improve and harmonize environmental regulations, policies, and procedures related to solid waste management practices. Such actions are expected to be accomplished through information exchanges and training, including:

  • courses on sanitary landfill inspection protocol and audits; 
  • development of regulations, policies and procedures for sanitary landfills and solid waste practices;
  • capture and potential use of methane gas as a clean energy source under the objectives of the Global Methane Initiative or contained generation of methane via anaerobic digestion or waste; and 
  • a demonstration project for closing open dumps.

EC-LEDS (Enhancing Capacity - For Low Emissions Development Strategies)

EPA’s EC-LEDS assistance to Costa Rica is focused on institutionalizing its greenhouse gas inventory preparation process, in the transportation sector. The assistance may include support for improved emissions estimates for the transport sector, emissions standards, reduction of sulfur fuel levels, and economic benefit analysis. 

Enforcement and Compliance

The previous CAFTA-DR Program helped strengthen the work of prosecutors and judges through training in some countries as well as through the compilation of legal reference materials. A regional legal compendium was prepared and made available to all environmental prosecutors in each country, together with a national compilation of environmental jurisprudence and a manual on investigation, prosecution and sentencing of environmental crimes.
EPA will continue to provide training to ensure existing gaps are addressed.  The capacity assistance is expected to include information exchange and training in areas such as: 
  • Investigation of environmental crimes to strengthen environmental law enforcement, including both men and women in the trainings; and
  • Adjudicating environmental cases to strengthen the judicial response to environmental violations, including both men and women in the training.

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Past Activities

Past EPA efforts in the CAFTA-DR countries have included technical capacity assistance in the following areas: 

  • Harmonization of Environmental Regulations
  • Policies and Procedures (Wastewater) 
  • Environmental Law Enforcement
  • Environmental Management Systems
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
  • Hazardous Substances and Sound Management of Chemicals
  • Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM)
  • Pollutant Release and Transfer Registry (PRTR)
  • Urban Air Quality Management
  • Land Use/Land Cover Mapping
  • Green Customs

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Agreements and Relevant Documents

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The following links exit the site Exit

US Department of State US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Guatemala Ministry of Environment El Salvador Ministry of Environment
Honduras Ministry of Environment Nicaragua Ministry of Environment
Costa Rica Ministry of Environment Dominican Republic Ministry of Environment
Central America Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD)  

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Learn More About the Western Hemisphere and the Caribbean

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For additional information on EPA's work with Latin America and the Caribbean, contact:
Cam Hill-Macon
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6408