Polluters now have to pay cleanup costs
TWO SENIOR EXECUTIVES of a polluting enterprise in Jinzhou, North China's Hebei province, were recently sentenced to prison and ordered to pay 1.08 million yuan ($158,100) in compensation to the local environmental protection bureau to cover the cleanup costs. Beijing News comments:
Not long before, the Jiangsu provincial court had sentenced a polluting enterprise in Taizhou, Jiangsu province, and ordered it to pay the local government 55.14 million yuan for ecological and environmental restoration.
The two trials show the previous practice of local governments covering the cost of pollution will be history from now on.
That polluters pay the cost of environmental and ecological restoration is perfectly justified, and will relieve the governments, if not taxpayers, of the heavy financial burden of cleaning up the mess caused by polluters.
As the plaintiffs, the local procuratorates have played an important role in winning the two cases, as they are much more professional and experienced in collecting evidence and presenting it to the court than individual citizens or social organizations.
China piloted environmental public interest litigation in 2015 to enhance the efficiency of the litigation, and lower the costs of bringing a case against polluters.
In the past three years, the local procuratorates have initiated more than 20,000 environmental law suits against polluters. And only the latest two cases, in which polluters are sentenced to pay for cleaning up pollutants, meet the initial purposes. The difficulty and resistance are mainly from local governments who tend to protect the enterprises as they are important economic growth drivers and big taxpayers.
Hopefully, local governments can draw lessons from the two cases as their tax revenue from the polluting enterprises may be dwarfed by the ecological restoration fees, and a worsening natural environment will only sour local business environments.