Harsher Punishments for Polluters as China Revises Law

by China Water Risk 25 April, 2014

24 April 2014 – The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress voted to pass the 4th Draft of the Amendment Environmental Protection Law giving more weight to officials to punish environmental violations. The law will come into effect from 1 January, 2015. This is the first legislative change in the Environmental Protection Law since it was enacted in 1989.

According to Xinhua News, the new law sets environmental protection as the country’s basic policy stating that economic & social development should be coordinated with environmental protection. Research & studies on environment related health impact are also encouraged as is the establishment of a better environment & health monitoring & assessment mechanism.

The 23 new articles should help the MEP wield a “bigger stick” in China’s war on pollution. The key changes in this regard for polluting enterprises and institutions are:

  • Naming & Shaming: Enterprises will be named and shamed for environmental violations;
  • Penalties & Fines:  Will not be capped and can be applied daily. Enterprises & institutions will be subject to fines for illegal discharge of pollutants and ordered to make corrections. In case of overdue correction, polluters will be charged with a daily accumulative fine based on the original amount of charge until the enterprise moves to correct the illegal discharge of pollutants;
  • Shut Down: For overdue pollution treatment and control, the entity will be ordered to close and shut down;
  • Criminal & Other Punishments: Enterprises, institutions and manufacturers will not only face fines but could criminal charges for:
    • illegally discharging pollutants via underground pipes, seepage wells, pits, high-pressure perfusion or tampering,
    • dodging environmental impact assessments;
    • refusing to suspend the discharge after the authorities have issued a ban;
    • failing to obtain a discharge permit but discharging pollutants;
    • avoiding & escaping from monitoring by forging data;
    • improperly using/operating pollution prevention equipment; and
    • producing or using state-banned pesticides.

The persons responsible could face up to 15 days detention for the above. Duration of detention will depend on the severity of the violations. If the action does not constitute a crime, the person in charge and other directly responsible personnel shall be punished in accordance with the “People’s Republic of China on Public Security Administration punishment Law” Article 30. If the behavior constitute a crime, then violators will be held criminally liable;

  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): For organisations entrusted to conduct EIA services, in the event where fraudulent & untrue contents in an EIA report has allowed the construction of a project that causes environmental pollution and ecological destruction, such organisations will be punished in accordance with relevant laws and regulations and will also be jointly and severally liable with the enterprise responsible for the project construction;
  • Government Officials’ Environmental Protection Target Responsibility & Appraisal System: Reporting of the status of achieving environmental targets by State Council, provincial, local governments & other responsible officials is now mandatory. The assessment results will serve as a basis of performance evaluation review of government personnel and will be made available to the public. Officials guilty of misconduct such as cover-ups, falsifying data or asking others to falsify data, failure to fine/punish polluting enterprises according to the new law and/or failure to publicise environmental information, could be demoted or sacked;
  • Litigation & Civil Suits: For actions that pollute the environment, damage the ecosystem and harm public interests, any social organization, which is registered with the civil affairs departments of government at a municipal level or above and has been engaged in public litigation on environmental issues for more than 5 years can file a lawsuit to the People’s Court.

Now that China’s fundamental environment law has changed, revisions to other laws concerning pollution prevention and control of water, soil and air may also be revised.

See how this new law will help fight China’s “War on Pollution” in our previous analysis & review of China’s stratagems & offensives and fundamental changes required to shore up the MEP’s arsenal here

See our opinions here

For the Chinese version of the environmental law click here

For the English version of the environmental click here