The following IHS EIATRACK content also relates to this topic:
Colombia is a large, mountainous, highly urbanized country of about 37 million people, located on South America’s northwest corner. It is the third most populous country in Latin America (behind Brazil and Mexico). Roughly 27% of its population is located in just four cities (Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali, Medellin), a fact recognized by the special role granted municipal authorities in these four cities in the implementation and enforcement of Colombian EHS laws and policies.
Colombia has a bicameral Congress, with an upper chamber Senate and lower chamber of Deputies. Passage of laws is a slow process and generally not focused on environmental matters. Nonetheless, Colombia has a history of trailblazing in the environmental field in Latin America, having established the first standalone environment agency in Latin America (in fact, before the EPA was created in the U.S.) and adopting one of the region’s first comprehensive environmental laws.
Colombia’s existing environmental legal regime is primarily governed by its framework environmental law, Law 99/93, which also created Colombia’s primary environmental protection agency, the Enviornment Ministry (MinAmbiente). Law 99/33 creates the National Environment System (“SINA”), a regulatory regime which divides authority over environmental matters between the MinAmbiente and the thirty-four regional autonomous authorities (CAR). Generally speaking, MinAmbiente has jurisdiction to establish federal environmental laws and standards, while the CARs have jurisdiction over their implementation and enforcement. Law 99/93 also grants MinAmbiente broad authority to enforce environmental laws with a wide-range of sanctions, including stringent fines, withdrawal of marketing approval for products, revocation of environmental operating licenses, and seizure of property and closure of operations.
In addition to Law 99/93, the Sanitary Code of 1979 (Law 9/79) continues to govern environmental matters, which prior to Law 99/93, constituted Colombia’s core environmental health and safety law. Law 9/79 grants authority to the Ministry of Health (“MinSalud”) to regulate chemicals, hazardous substances, wastes, and products. Thus, the regulations and decrees issued by MinSalud continue to govern a number of environmental matters.
As a general matter, Colombian legislation is rarely revoked in its entirety. As a consequence, most legal fields are regulated by a number of overlapping laws that have been promulgated over many years. Consequently, questions regarding the applicability and conflicts of laws occur frequently. In many instances, it can be extremely challenging to determine which provisions of which laws are still in effect. Adding to this challenge, Colombian administrative agencies often have conflicting positions on the scope of their jurisdiction. While local counsel is important to doing business in any jurisdiction, it takes on an added importance to doing business in Colombia.