CHINA> National
Power projects halted on environmental concern
Updated: 2009-06-12 09:04

BEIJING -- Chinese central government on Thursday suspended approval to several new construction projects which failed to pass the environmental impact assessments, blacklisting the country's two major energy providers and steel works in Shandong Province.

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The Ministry of Environmental Protection said it halted the assessments on construction applications of China Huaneng Group and China Huadian Corporation before they conduct certain environment-friendly improvements to their high energy-consuming and highly polluting projects.

The energy-intensive and polluting projects include the two energy giants' hydropower stations over the Jinshajiang River, upstream part of Yangtze River, which had been started without environmental approvals.

The environment watchdog also suspended all construction applications from steel companies in the east Shandong Province since Rizhao Steel Holding Group and Weifang Iron and Steel Group started their projects which violate the government's steel policy without the ministry's approvals as well.

Environmental Protection Ministry is responsible for examining environmental impacts of planned projects before they can get approval to start.

The ministry's spokesman Tao Detian told Xinhua on Thursday that the hydropower stations constructed by Huaneng and Huadian intercepted the river water without approval on the basis of the environmental assessments, which could bring serious influences to ecosystems and people's livings downstream.

The ministry would organize additional environmental assessments on the projects and urge the energy companies to correct unapproved activities and strictly abide by environmental regulations, Tao said.

Shandong is one of the country's major steel-making regions and also a trouble-making province with environmental problems, the spokesman said, the suspension of its new steel-making applications would promote an industrial upgrade in the province which could clean out highly polluting works and redundant projects.

The ministry will track down the companies to improve their environmental protection measures and publicize the results of their corrections.

According to the ministry, it had suspended or rejected 29 applications of new construction in petrochemical, steel-making and electricity-generating industries with a total investment of 146.7 billion yuan (US$21.5 billion).

Chinese government has promised that its economic stimulus plan would not compromise anti-pollution efforts and policies would not be loosened to allow more projects to pass environmental examinations.

Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian said the government would abide by strict environmental standards when evaluating new projects.

"We did not lower our requirements for environmental protection while using 'fast-track' procedures to approve certain proposed projects," Zhou Shengxian said, referring to speculation that such procedures were used to approve polluting projects.