China polluters to face tougher fines under new law: report

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 14, 2011 9:18 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) - Polluting Chinese enterprises will be fined more than 10,000 yuan ($1,549) per day if they fail to comply with environmental rules, according to new legislation currently being considered by the government, an official newspaper said on Friday.

The Economic Information Daily, published by the Xinhua news agency, cited sources as saying that the draft of the new law would be released publicly later this year and submitted for approval during next year's session of parliament.

China, struggling to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection, has found it difficult to force industrial enterprises to comply with pollution rules, with the current range of fines and "administrative punishments" regarded as too small to serve as a deterrent.

The report cited experts as saying that the law would provide a new "legal weapon" to ensure that enough compensation is paid for environmental disasters. By significantly raising costs, it would also force small and polluting enterprises to close, it said.

However, the new fines might not be enough to deter some larger state-owned firms.

The paper said that state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), parent company of PetroChina, paid just 1 million yuan in fines and 5 million yuan in "aid" after an explosion at one of the company's plants in northeast China's Jilin province in 2005.

The blast contaminated the Songhua River with a torrent of toxic benzene that cost the government 7.84 billion yuan to treat, the report added.

Environmental group Greenpeace said on Wednesday that two major Chinese suppliers to global clothing brands like Adidas and Nike were contaminating rivers with hormone-disrupting chemicals banned in Europe and elsewhere.

Around 16 percent of China's rivers are not even clean enough for irrigation purposes, according to official figures, and following a spate of chemical plant explosions, burst tailings dams and untreated toxic run-offs, China has committed to cleaning up its water supplies over the next five years.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)