October 3, 2019 / 4:47 AM / 2 months ago

Chinese steel city steps up fines, prosecutions in pollution battle

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s smog-prone northern city of Tangshan has issued new guidelines to punish and prosecute companies and individuals found guilty of pollution offences, amid warnings it might miss its air quality goals for this year.

Tangshan, which produces more steel each year than the whole of the United States, is about 180 km (112 miles) from Beijing, the capital, and is on the frontline of China’s “war on pollution”, which is now in its sixth year.

But despite closing dozens of foundries and cracking down on coal use, Tangshan continues to rank among China’s smoggiest cities, with officials saying in July it would struggle to reach its targets over the 2019-2020 period.

The tough new measures published on Wednesday threaten heavy fines and closure for firms that do not install proper monitoring equipment, tamper with pollution sensors or falsify or remove emissions data, and allow the arrest of offenders.

“(Tangshan) will be granted policy support for companies to implement technological renovations, equipment updates and energy substitutions that are tougher than the state and provincial level,” the guidelines said.

The measures, which take effect from Nov. 1, also prescribe fines of up to 10,000 yuan ($1,399.05) for drivers and owners whose vehicles fall short of state fuel standards or those who try to falsify their emission readings.

They also spell out punishments for companies or individuals responsible for burning agricultural waste, rubber, plastic or garbage in the open air, and for the use of unauthorized and polluting street barbecue equipment.

Government officials found to have abused their powers or failed in their duty to monitor and control emissions will be fired, and could also face criminal prosecution, the guidelines said.

Tangshan was one of several cities to implement industrial output cuts in late September in a regional effort to curb emissions and ensure blue skies during China’s National Day celebrations on Oct. 1.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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