On 1 July 2022, the Guidelines for Implementation of Environmental Standards (環保標準執法應注意原則) was announced by the EPA, with two focuses: enhancing the credibility of proof of pollution for determining violations and issuing penalties, and; monitoring enterprises prone to violate standards. The Guidelines will serve as reference for environmental authorities when inspection results turn out closely above or below legal limits. After enactment, it is estimated that approximately 45,000 enterprises will be subject to close supervision, which will effectively lead to reduced pollution.
According to the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法), eight sets of guidelines are proposed regarding environmental regulations spanning air, water, waste, soil and groundwater, to help environmental authorities perform their control tasks and handle follow-up work. When inspection and test results exceed set limits, and meet criteria for closer monitoring, penalties are to be issued, and sampling and tests are to be conducted again within 30 days as per the Guidelines. In the case of the Water Pollution Act (水污染防制法), if the follow-up test results from the same violators are worse, then penalties are to be issued based on the test results showing more concentrated pollution. Enterprises are deemed as prone to violating environmental regulations if their test results fall within a range designated as requiring close attention, even if they do not exceed regulated limits. Authorities are to notify these enterprises to voluntarily examine their pollution control installations and, if necessary, intensify inspection efforts so that they are more accountable for their environmental impacts. In this way, the alert scale for pollution controls is expanded in practice.
For repeat offenders, the Guidelines strive to enhance the credibility of proof of violations in order to determine more suitable penalties, while for enterprises with test results close to exceeding legal limits, the Guidelines intensify monitoring. The EPA mentioned that such practices not only more actively protect the environment, but also safeguard the rights of parties involved. The newly announced eight sets of guidelines have specified ranges of test results that will lead to closer monitoring of enterprises. Other regulations remain the same, but environmental authorities will be able to strengthen law enforcement efforts concerning enterprises whose environmental test results fall within such ranges. Enterprises that exceed limits will face penalties based on the more severe results, and then be monitored for continuing violations so as to enhance the credibility of proof of pollution. Besides being advised to voluntarily examine their own pollution control installations, enterprises whose results do not exceed limits but are close to doing so will be marked for authorities to follow up with intensified inspections. Approximately 45,000 enterprises listed for control are subject to the Guidelines, which are expected to effectively lower pollution.
Based on inspection and testing data from recent years, there is now a higher potential of enterprises that are normally compliant with regulations but prone to exceed pollution limits, than enterprises that are not compliant with regulations but only slightly exceed pollution limits. The Guidelines should be very helpful in controlling enterprises prone to violating environmental regulations. Taking water pollution controls as an example, inspection and tests on dedicated sewage systems in industrial parks between 2017 and 2021 have led to 6,813 sets of test results for chemical oxygen demand (COD), with a 95% compliance rate. There were 149 sets of test results that fell in the category of compliant enterprises prone to exceed pollution limits, while 79 sets fell in the category of enterprises slightly exceeding limits. From 1 July, environmental authorities will notify enterprises in these categories to examine their pollution control installations, reminding them to comply with regulations as well as urging them to take needed measures when they are on the verge of exceeding pollution limits.
From 1 July, enterprises will be closely monitored when results from inspections and tests fall within 10% above or below the pollution limits. Based on the Guidelines, environmental authorities will conduct follow-up sampling and tests in order to better justify penalties, or remind enterprises to voluntarily check on their pollution control installations. The goal is to further monitor enterprises prone to violating pollution standards and effectively improve environmental quality.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, July 2022
- Ministry of Environment