Former SEPA vice minister Pan Yue (ÊΩòÂ≤≥) was recently promoted to be the #1 deputy (Á¨¨‰∏ÄÂâØÂ±ÄÈïø), or executive vice minister, of China’s environmental watchdog agency, and he is launching China’s third “environmental protection storm.” From China Business News (Á¨¨‰∏ÄË¥¢ÁªèÊó•Êä•) via sina.com.cn (translated by CDT):
Since the previous two “storms” in 2005 and 2006, Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration’s third in a row was launched on Jan. 10, opening with a happy Pan Yue, anointed as the #2 environmental boss one day later. SEPA announced 82 steel, electricity and gold-refinery projects that “seriously violate environmental assessment policies,” with a total investment of 112 billion yuan, and instituted the first “regional license restrictions (Âå∫ÂüüÈôêÊâπ)” on highly polluting and rapidly growing industries in Tangshan (ÂîêÂ±±), Luliang (ÂêïÊ¢Å), Laiwu (Ëé±Ëäú) and Liupanshui (ÂÖ≠ÁõòÊ∞¥) cities. The restrictions — which Pan compared to an ancient Chinese punishment of incriminating relatives and associates related to the main suspect (ËøûÂùê) — will stop the reviews of all projects in those sectors or big companies with gross polluters in the administrative regions affected.
But the job ahead for Pan remains tough, if not tougher than the past year, with about one pollution incident every other day straining SEPA’s energy and resources. “If there is another major event like Songhua River spill and not a timely and appropriate response, I will also resign,” Pan says.
In the wake of the Chinese government’s “first official acknowledgment” of a “failure” in protecting the environment for 2006 (energy consumption down 4% and pollutant emissions down 2%), the outspoken environmental official complained about local governments and companies “delivering empty promises.” Especially, Pan named strong “local protectionism” and “government inaction” as the major culprits in big pollution outbreaks.
Not surprisingly, the reporter learned from SEPA, the “motivation” for local economies to kick off highly polluting and energy consuming projects continues unabated. Among the 862 projects which applied to SEPA with a total worth of 3.26 trillion yuan, SEPA disqualified 56 items, worth 218 billion yuan, and rejected or suspended 163, worth 775 billion yuan. These investments are mostly related to power, chemicals, paper making, etc.
SEPA’s statistics show that the law enforcement penetration of environmental assessment policies are about 70% for provincial projects, and drops down to 40% and 20%, respectively, at city and county/township levels. So the job remains tough for Pan and his colleagues. [Full Text in Chinese]
– A list of SEPA’s blacklisted gross polluters (in Chinese)