Draft law toughens fines for maritime pollution

Updated: 2016-08-30 07:35

By Cao Yin and Zheng Jinran(China Daily)

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NPC considers amendment that eliminates the ceiling on fines, requires ecological development

China is considering imposing harsher penalties on maritime polluters and removing the upper limit of fines in a move to more effectively protect the marine environment.

In a draft amendment to the Marine Environment Protection Law, submitted on Monday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for first reading, the punitive cap of 300,000 yuan ($44,800) in fines would be eliminated.

Instead, maritime polluters would face fines of up to 20 to 30 percent of direct losses caused by their pollution.

The amendment also adds provisions dealing with marine ecological compensation, according to a statement from the NPC Environment and Resources Protection Committee. The existing law has been in effect since January last year.

Zhao Jingwei, a lawyer representing fishermen damaged by an oil leak in Bohai Bay in June 2011, welcomed the heavier penalty because "it will be a great threat for potential polluters".

Energy giant Conoco Phillips said in January 2012 that it would pay 1 billion yuan to settle all claims arising from the oil leaks from its Penglai 19-3 oilfield in Bohai Bay.

Similar marine pollution has been common over the past few years, "and the effect brought by them has sometimes been very harmful to people and the environment," said Wang Zhenyu, an environmental lawyer.

But Wang said that increasing penalties is not enough by itself, and the most important thing in protecting the marine environment is prevention.

"What I care most about is how law enforcers deal with the fines and how to make sure the punishment process is transparent," he said.

In addition to more severe punishments, the amended law also sets a bottom line for marine developers, requiring them to make ecological protection a priority.

"As to the mining of marine resources, we should make a reasonable development layout in line with functional ocean divisions to strictly protect key marine ecological areas and vulnerable regions," said Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming.

The draft amendment would impose restrictions on development in sea areas that have not met the target for environmental protection or whose major pollutant discharge has exceeded standards, Jiang said.

The Marine Environment Protection Law was enacted in 1982 and comprehensively revised in 1999.

Contact the writers at zhengjinran@chinadaily.com.cn