In an unprecedented move, SEPA slapped "regional permit restrictions" on four cities (Tangshan, Luliang, Laiwu and Liupanshui) and four major power companies (Datang International, Huaneng, Huadian and Guodian), suspending approval of any new projects until they bring their existing facilities into compliance with environmental regulations.I still don't have enough of a sense of Chinese environmental politics to know how big a deal this is, but TGP is generally critical of Party environmental policy.
As a part of this story, TGP translate an interview with Pan Yue, originally conducted in Southern Weekend (Nanfang Zhoumo). Pan comes off as an environmental good guy. In the interview, he places some blame for pollution on regional officials who stand to gain more by promoting economic growth than protecting the air
TGP: What is the crux of the problem? You've criticized local officials who are intent on launching new projects as having a distorted view of what constitutes achievement in political life. The central government does not approve of these projects and, for example, has punished the company and local officials who were behind the Xinfeng Power Plant in Inner Mongolia.Pan asks for help, though, in his fight against the people he sees as behind the rising pollution. (Perhaps the whole goal of the interview is to push this agenda)
Pan Yue: I have repeatedly stressed that the environment deteriorates because of officials' skewed concept of political accomplishment. But now, powerful interest groups and officials' distorted view of what constitutes political achievement have joined forces, to the environment's detriment....This [the behavior of the interest groups] has not only undermined the central government's macroeconomic policies but has also gone against the interests of ordinary people, and led to social unrest.
At the moment, the reality is that the current environmental laws look good on paper, but that's by and large where they remain because our power to punish offenders is pretty limited. In terms of the administrative measures in our arsenal, we don't have the power to close down offending companies or to remove the local government officials who should be held accountable, or even to perform our management functions of environmental monitoring and enforcement of environmental protection laws in a top-down manner.