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March 26, 2015

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NGO uses new environment law to sue glassmaker over pollution

An environmental organization has filed a lawsuit against a glass manufacturer in east China’s Shandong Province, which it claims is a major polluter, the Dezhou Intermediate People’s Court, said yesterday.

The suit, brought by the All-China Environment Federation against Zhenhua Co, an affiliate of Dezhou Jinghua Group, is the first to be filed under a revised environmental protection law that came into effect last year.

The federation is demanding 30 million yuan (US$4.8 million) from Zhenhua for damage it says it caused after neglecting warnings from watchdogs about its emissions of sulfur and dust.

The company was placed on a Ministry of Environmental Protection blacklist in October after failing to deal with the problem.

The federation said it has received several complaints from people living near the plant about a foul-smelling yellow smoke.

“Neither fines by the local environmental watchdog nor the blacklist warning by the ministry were enough to make the company take effective steps to control its pollution,” said Ma Yong, a litigation director with the federation.

“The litigation is an attempt to check headstrong violators like Zhenhua,” he said.

The case is the first of its kind since amendments to the environment protection law were enacted in April last year, making it easier for NGOs to file lawsuits against polluters.

The law must be a powerful, effective tool to control pollution, Premier Li Keqiang told a press conference last week.

Shandong-based lawyer Fu Qiang said large-scale industrial polluters are often protected by local authorities.

NGOs will play a bigger role in representing the public interest in environmental cases in the future, he said.

The federation’s lawsuit also spurred the Dezhou municipal government into ordering Zhenhua to overhaul its emission treatment facilities before the end of the month or face a suspension.


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