Violators face being shut down and fines of up to 1 million yuan
China issued an updated management guideline to regulate its pollutant emission permit system, making sure every emission into the air, water and soil is supervised, the top environment authority said on Wednesday.
The central government released a revamped pollutant emission policy in November 2016, requiring all stationary sources of pollution to be licensed by 2020 to curb emissions.
The ministry then issued a provisional document to promote this policy in December 2016, "which has played a positive role in helping issue permits to companies and motivate the reform", an unnamed official said in a Ministry of Environmental Protection statement on Wednesday.
By the end of 2017, China has issued more than 20,000 permits to companies in 15 industries, which are major emitters of air and water pollutants, including thermal power generation, papermaking, iron and steel, and glassmaking, data from the ministry showed.
"We have assessed the basic situation in these industries in terms of emissions, which will lay a solid base for further controls," the ministry said.
In Hebei province, a major national hub for iron and steel production, 1,106 companies from the 15 major industries received permits, meaning they have permission to discharge pollutants, while 461 companies were rejected.
"Some should be shut down, and some started construction before they got approval," the Hebei Environmental Protection Department said.
Based on the provisional document in December 2016 to promote the permit system, the ministry issued the updated guideline, the Pollutants Discharging Permit Management Guideline, to the public on Wednesday.
The updated guideline highlights the responsibilities of companies including the need to conduct regular monitoring and release information. Violators face tough punishments.
If a company is caught discharging pollutants without a permit, it could be required to suspend production or shut down, and faces a fine of up to 1 million yuan ($155,000), according to the updated guideline.
Companies guilty of other violations including excessive emissions and falsifying monitoring data will also face similar penalties of closure and heavy fines, the guideline added.
The permit system has worked in regulating emissions in the past year, and will be more effective when it is expanded to cover all companies with the help of the updated guideline, the ministry said.
In China, 27 provinces have adopted the pollutant emission permit system since the 1980s, and granted permits to more than 240,000 companies before the reform started in 2016, but problems including a lack of unified standards have lowered the performance, thus making the update necessary, said Wang Jian, deputy head of the ministry's department in charge of air pollution control.