China Names and Shames Officials in Air Pollution Campaign

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Michael Standaert

Environmental authorities in China are dispatching 5,600 inspectors in the region around Beijing and publicly calling out several localities for failing to do enough to reduce air pollution in an intensive yearlong action.

The inspections—which the Ministry of Environmental Protection said are part of the largest anti-pollution campaign China has ever launched—will take place in 28 cities, including the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin, and in surrounding provinces such as Hebei, Shandong, Henan and Shanxi, where much of the air pollution blows from to Beijing, in addition to Tangshan, Baoding and Xingtai in Hebei province, and Tianjin municipality.

The environment ministry indicated that 28 cities will each undergo around 25 rounds of inspections throughout the year running through March 2018.

These areas’ main problems were with excessive sulfur content in diesel fuel being sold at gas stations, tampering with emissions monitoring systems, companies failing to halt production after air pollution emergency notices and other general environmental protection violations.

Throughout the campaign, environmental officials will check whether local governments are implementing air pollution controls and will monitor emissions from pollution sources such as factories, power plants and other businesses, the Environment Ministry’s Vice Minister Zhai Qing said April 5. Fines and penalties are expected to be levied.

Saving Face

During a series of surprise inspections in Langfang, Hebei, province on April 5, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection Zhao Yingmin called out city officials for not putting into place emergency response actions after a heavy pollution warning was issued on April 2.

Top officials in local governments who get “called out” could lose points in their rating under China’s evaluation systems, which now include environmental protection as a criterion. The concept of “face” is also important. In some cases, if officials are directly complicit with serious violations, they could be demoted or removed.

Zhao ordered halts in production at companies. These included wood-panel producers, non-ferrous metal recyclers, and aluminum and cement producers, which had failed requirements for coal-fired boiler standards and lacked of equipment to remove sulfur dioxide emissions and control dust, as well as facilities where emissions data was fabricated.

He put the blame primarily with “some local governments that do not take emergency response seriously.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Standaert in Shenzhen, China, at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.