BEIJING Jan 7 China has urged local government
and environmental officials to crack down on power producers who
fraudulently claim subsidies for cutting emissions, the
country's top economic planner said on Tuesday.
Beijing has established a wide array of laws and rules to
battle the environmental consequences of three decades of
unchecked growth, but weak monitoring and negligible punishment
make it tough to get powerful industrial interests to comply.
The subsidy scheme, introduced last year, was part of
Beijing's plan to encourage power plants to cut air pollution.
But China's influential economic planning agency, the
National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), launched a
nationwide probe last year amid claims that dozens of firms were
cheating the system by falsifying data.
On Tuesday, the agency issued a notice saying that firms
engaging in fraud to qualify for subsidies would face severe
penalties and suffer public exposure.
The firms were exploiting a scheme that paid a higher price
for power sold to the grid by power plants that had installed
expensive equipment to cut pollutants such as sulphur dioxide
and nitrogen oxide.
The NDRC said the probe showed many power firms had failed
to install equipment properly, falsified emissions data or
tampered with automatic emission sensors to trick authorities
into granting the subsidy.
Last August, the NDRC raised tariffs for
environmentally-compliant power plants to help utilities pay for
expensive equipment to cut emissions, and promised to get tough
on fraud in the sector.
Amendments to China's environmental law, expected to be
passed in March, will make the supply of fraudulent emissions
data a criminal offense, and will provide for heavier fines to
be imposed on law-breaking firms.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection is also spending 40
billion yuan ($6.61 billion) over the period from 2011 to 2015
to boost its real-time pollution monitoring capacity.
($1=6.0526 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)