"It's not about new ideas, but about enforcement. . . . What is changing are the incentives or disincentives, " Economy told the Washington Post.
In 2007, some Chinese cities are taking measures that show that their officials are beginning to make the environment a higher priority than raising their GDP, a fundamental shift in thinking for a country that can attribute much of its early-stage development to being the place to which others outsourced their pollution, the Post report said.
And, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), a cabinet ministry of the State Council, now is empowered with more teeth. It has armed local governments with new tools for punishing polluters. Chinese banks now have the right to deny loans to polluting companies, which are on SPEA’s polluters blacklist.
And, SEPA officials are able to force violators to issue humiliating public apologies in newspapers or television announcements detailing their crimes. Also, utility companies are empowered to raise electricity, gas or water rates for companies that consume too many resources.
The result has been devastating for a growing number of companies, the Washington Post reported.
In Heilongjiang province in the northeast, officials have announced that they had kicked out 100 polluting enterprises that were sending industrial runoff into a river that empties in Russia. In Shanxi Province, China's largest coal-mining area, officials have closed down most industry in a county whose outdated machinery polluted waterways. And in Inner Mongolia, the government closed a production facility for one of China's biggest companies, Mengniu Dairy, because it had been operating without wastewater processing facilities and discharging waste into the Yellow River.
Ventures that are fully or partly owned by foreigners have also been caught in the inspections. This month, Unilever China, which makes soap, shampoo and other cleaners, was fined and ordered to reduce production because of excessive discharges.
Liu Yamin, chief of Wuxi's Environmental Protection Bureau, acknowledged that as the city transforms itself from dependence on industry to a focus on high-tech research, there will be growing pains.
"The blue-green algae gave us a warning, a shock, but we Chinese have a saying that a bad thing can be turned into a good thing," Liu said.
Businesses say that the environmental measures are good in theory but that they worry about unemployment and whether the laws are being applied fairly.
Wuxi Dongtai Fine Chemical Industry was fined $13,000 and ordered to stop making one of its products for failing to meet environmental standards. The city said Dongtai leaked chemicals into a river that flows into Tai Lake.
Feng Jing, Dongtai's office manger, said the incident was minor, caused by small cracks in its piping system, but that the punishment was severe. As a result, the company laid off 50 of its 600 workers.