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SEPA Blocks 12 Industrial Projects for Lack of Public Support
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Twelve industrial projects are denied environmental protection approvals to operation on grounds that the public have not been invited to assess pollution control measures, China's environment watchdog announced on Thursday.


They are among the 43 projects, with a combined investment of 160 billion yuan (US$20.5 billion), that had been rejected construction by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) in the past year.


Among the blocked projects, 29 were in the highly polluting industries such as coal-burning power stations and various chemical plants.


The other 31 had finally been granted the approval after they carried out public opinion consultation properly, said Pan Yue, deputy director of the SEPA.


"We refuse to hand out environmental protection approvals to these projects for they failed to pass public assessment. Some failed to properly inform the public on potential pollution and some collected the opinion that did not reflect the thoughts of the majority," he said.


In March last year, the SEPA issued provisional regulations to require industrial project managers to consult public opinion -- for example by conducting public survey and hearing -- on a project's potential impact on the environment before construction starts.


Public involvement must be carried out in "an open, equal, extensive and convenient way," said the regulations.


He said public opinion helped reduce many pollution threats including a chemical plant in central Wuhan city that emitted eroding gas and a coal-burning power station in southeastern Fuzhou city that caused floating dusts.


China first looked into a way of involving the public in 2005, when a construction project in Yuanmingyuan, a former imperial garden in the northwestern suburbs of Beijing, caused an uproar in the country.


The SEPA on Wednesday issued another document ordering environmental departments and polluters to publicize information regarding environmental degradation and pollution.


Companies or factories exceeding pollution levels and whose facilities are not up to environmental standards will have to report this information, the document says.


"Polluting companies have to publish information concerning the discharge of main pollutants in local media within 30 days after local environmental departments draw up company blacklists," according to the regulations.


The document came after the release of a decree on Tuesday by the State Council to boost official transparency by ordering government departments to be more open in reporting information.


(Xinhua News Agency April 27, 2007)

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