SEPA Officials Plan to Submit Revisions to Environmental Protection Laws

April 4, 2005

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) currently is preparing to submit revisions to the Law on Water Pollution Prevention and the 1979 Environmental Protection Law, according to a March 14 interview with Director Xie Zhenhua published in the Beijing News. The article reports that the revisions will resemble the recent amendment to the Law on Solid Waste Pollution Prevention. The government will emphasize holding individuals personally responsible for environmental damage and holding industries responsible for pollution costs. According to the Xie interview and an article in the China Youth Daily, SEPA’s focus appears to be on increasing sanctions and fines for government officials and industry leaders when then fail to comply with environmental laws.

Environmental protection officials support the development of new mechanisms to enforce environmental law, report articles in the Legal Daily and in the People’s Daily. Two mechanisms officials favor are making environmental protection a component of the performance evaluation of government officials and incorporating public opinion into the environmental impact assessment of proposed projects.

For additional details, see below.



SEPA Director Xie Zhenhua says that government officials seeking promotion will be evaluated using four categories:

  1. Change in environmental quality. When an official’s term expires, he or she will be evaluated in part on whether the quality of the environment has improved or worsened.
  2. Implementation of state environmental protection laws and programs.
  3. Intensity of pollution emissions. The emissions will be gauged to determine if they have been lowered, indicating changes in economic growth patterns [sic] and better implementation of recycling policies.
  4. Public opinion. The level of public satisfaction will be taken into account.

Xie also discusses changes necessary to strengthen the environmental impact assessment process:

  1. Increase the number of environmental impact assessment officials. A stronger process requires more officials to investigate and prosecute projects that violate the environmental impact assessment law.
  2. Protect rivers though environmental impact assessment. Development projects near rivers must prepare environmental impact assessments according to the law.
  3. Use environmental impact assessments to promote sustainable development. Environmental impact assessment should promote changes in development patterns and help implement a recycling economy.
  4. Make environmental impact assessment information public. The government should make public environmental impact assessment work, examinations, and approvals. It should also hold public hearings on sensitive projects that could have repercussions for the general public. For more detailed information on the public hearing process and the kind of information that should be made public, see this 21st Century Business Herald article.