Rules would give more authority to environmental officers

Updated: 2014-04-22 07:17

By Wu Wencong (China Daily)

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A new draft law would grant law-enforcement powers to local environmental protection officers, allowing them to deal with pollution in a more effective and timely manner, experts said.

The fourth draft amendment to the Environmental Protection Law, which is under discussion at the National People's Congress Standing Committee, would empower county-level and above environmental protection agencies to freeze and seize property and machines from enterprises that are causing severe pollution.

"This clause can be interpreted as entitling environmental departments with the power to enforce law, so that many environmental officials do not have to work with local police when checking on illegal discharges of pollutants by local companies," said Zhai Yong, head of the law chamber of the Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee of the NPC.

Zou Shoumin, director of the Environmental Protection Ministry's environmental supervision bureau, said environmental supervision officers warmly welcomed this clause.

"If it is adopted, it will help deter enterprises to a large extent. But seen from another perspective, the clause has also forced environmental departments to bear more responsibilities."

The new draft amendment also would entitle environmental departments to fine polluting companies on a daily basis without setting an upper limit if the companies were to be found illegally discharging pollutants and refusing to stop after being warned.

Chai Fahe, vice-president of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, said issuing fines for causing pollution has always been a hot topic as the standard may be too low to end the situation in which it is less expensive to break the laws than to follow them.

He said that the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Law, which is being amended, will also significantly raise the upper limits of the fines for causing airborne pollution.

An Baijie contributed to this story.