toxic discharges into agricultural areas

The Standing Committee of the National People Congress just passed a law prohibiting “discharges of sewage, waste gas, solid waste or other poisonous substances to the agricultural product production areas.” (SCMP 4/30). It is a response to widespread concerns about contamination of agricultural produce. It will become effective Nov. 1.

There was also another report of water pollution that is expected to affected the water supply of 40,000 people in Wuchuan City, Guangdong province. (China Daily 4/29) The pollution is affecting the water in the Sanchajiang river, but the news report does not make clear the source of the pollution or its composition.

How Beijing will meet air quality standards for the Olympics

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau may try to go the last-resort avenue to reduce air pollution for the Olympics. On high pollution days and depending on the weather, some cars would be banned from operation. (SCMP 4/27). This is, of course, all being planned in conjunction with traditional environmental regulatory measures, such as emissions controls. Cars kept off the road would be higher emission vehicles, most likely older vehicles.

Also, pollution levels in the Three Gorges reservoir, created by the Three Gorges Dam, is likely to become a significant public health and environmental problem. While pollution control have been stepped up, Professor Shu at a research institute of a PLA’s Medical Hospital has said that only 20% of polluted water inflows are treatd. Shu just received an environmental protection award from the central government on Three Gorges reservoir water quality issues. (SCMP 4/27).

Job Posting 4/24 – US EPA Opening in Methane to Markets Partnership

here’s job listing that has languished in my e-mail.

April 14, 2006

Program Manager and Environmental Protection Specialist Position
Openings –Methane to Markets Partnership and Natural Gas STAR Program,

This notice is to announce the upcoming availability of two exciting
federal positions to work in the challenging world of international
climate change and energy programs. The positions are located in the
Office of Atmospheric Program’s Climate Change Division (CCD), Non-CO2
Programs Branch (NCPB). NCPB is responsible for the implementation of
voluntary programs that promote profitable opportunities for reducing
emissions of methane and high-global warming potential gases. The branch
is also responsible for the Methane to Markets Partnership (M2M).
Launched in November 2004, M2M will reduce global methane emissions to
enhance economic growth, promote energy security, improve the
environment, and reduce GHG emissions. Through multilateral,
public-private sector cooperation, the Partnership promotes
cost-effective, near-term methane recovery and use projects at
agricultural operations (manure management), coal mines, landfills, and
oil and gas systems.

EPA seeks to fill two positions to support the Methane to Markets
Partnership and the Natural Gas STAR Program. The salary range for
these positions is GS-11 to GS-13 ($54,272 – $100,554), dependent upon
qualifications. If interested, please e-mail a cover letter and resume
to the following contact:

Marian Smoak
USEPA (6207J)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460


This invitation for resumes is an opportunity for you to introduce
yourself to us. It is not an official job application process. All job
openings will be announced in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
EZ-hire website ( EPA is an Equal
Opportunity Employer. Selection for these positions will be based
solely on merit without regard to race, color, religion, age, gender,
national origin, political affiliation, disability, sexual orientation,
marital or family status, or any other non-merit factors. U.S.
citizenship is required.

Environmental Protection Specialist, Methane to Markets Partnership

EPA is seeking a highly motivated individual to support the Methane to
Markets Partnership. EPA is the lead implementing agency for the US and
is serving as the M2M Secretariat. The Secretariat is responsible for
facilitating communication among members, planning M2M committee
meetings, and developing outreach and communication materials for the
Partnership. This position requires an ability to manage a wide range
of programmatic issues and operate in a fast paced and dynamic
environment. Work undertaken will include managing and coordinating
communications and activities between US government agencies and
international partner countries, evaluating program effectiveness and
identifying strategic opportunities for program improvement, identifying
and promoting existing and emerging project financing mechanisms,
preparing policy and research analyses, and interacting and fostering
relationships with the private sector, non-government organizations,
foreign governments, and other federal agencies to implement the goals
of M2M.

The ideal candidate will have a master’s degree in environmental
science, public policy, or a related discipline and possess strong
analytical, marketing, communication, international relations, and
presentation skills. Experience in project finance is preferred, but not
required. The candidate must also have a strong commitment to
environmental protection, excellent writing skills, a high energy level,
and some facilitation and outreach experience. The candidate will be
required to operate in an interactive team-based environment with each
member assuming responsibility for a diverse set of activities and
responsibilities. The job will require domestic and international
Program Manager, Natural GasSTAR Program

EPA is seeking a program manager for the Natural GasSTAR Program.
Natural GasSTAR is a voluntary public-private partnership designed to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas production,
transmission, distribution, and processing using cost-effective
management practices and technologies. The program works directly with
representatives of the oil and natural gas industry, including
companies, major industry trade associations, governments, and research
organizations. Internationally, the Natural Gas STAR Program is
responsible for implementing EPA’s Methane to Markets Partnership oil
and gas related activities.

This position requires a diverse set of skills including, an ability to
comprehend technologies and technical issues, conduct successful
face-to-face negotiations and interactions with industry, perform
technical and financial analysis, promote new projects, and manage a
wide range of programmatic activities. Work undertaken will involve
strategic program planning, marketing directly to the industry,
performing cost-benefit analyses of new emission reduction technologies
and practices, designing and developing technical and outreach materials
to forward the goals of the Program and the Methane to Markets
Partnership, and managing key program activities.

The ideal candidate will have a masters degree in environmental science,
public policy, or a related discipline, and strong analytical,
marketing, communication, international relations, and presentation
skills. The individual must also have the ability to rapidly learn
technical information and communicate it to the relevant stakeholders.
A petroleum background and international experience is preferred but not
required. The ideal candidate will also have a strong commitment to
environmental protection, excellent writing skills, a high energy level,
strong quantitative skills, project management experience, and an
ability to work well with others. The program operates in an
interactive team-based environment with each member assuming
responsibility for a diverse set of activities and responsibilities.
Domestic and international travel is required.

local governments lose 30-50% of administrative law suits

Local governments lose an astonishing 30-50% of law suits in China, according a magazine article described in SCMP (SCMP 4/23, “Governments on wrong side of law”). The article suggests that this shows that local government are acting contrary to the law. These law suits are being brought under the China’s 1989 Administrative Procedure law. Of these administrative law suits, 30-40% consist of cases concerning land seizures, housing relocations, social security and state-owned-enterprise reform (in essence, folks getting laid off from their state company jobs).

The assertion that local governments oftentimes act contrary to the law and are sued as a result seems pretty unremarkable. However, I am astonished that the plaintiffs appear to win so often. From all the things I have heard, the plaintiffs most of the time come out on the losing end. My sense was that judges would not ordinarily rule against local government officials in such matters. Even if judges in large metropolitan areas like Beijing and Shanghai may be more professional, and so such a high loss rate seems likely in such regions, that is less the case in the rural areas and away from the coast.

Enforcement of law in China – IPR and Environment

The recent announcement of greater law enforcement efforts in the IPR sector is an interesting contrast to what has been going on with respect to environmental matters. In connection with President Hu Jintao’s visit to the US, there have been pronouncements that China will be cracking down on violators of IPR, including software pirating. The US Commerce Department seems to estimate that up to 70% of all Chinese software is pirated. In a conversation that I had with a Microsoft manager in Beijing a few months ago, he estimated that only 1 of every 10 copies of Windows used on Chinese computers was actually a legitimate version.

All of this has led to great efforts on the part of the US to prod China to step up its IPR enforcement efforts. While the rhetoric is good, what will actually occur remains to be seen. But within the last year, there have been some high profile enforcement actions, including law suits about knock-off goods against the Beijing silk market and another place that is very popular with foreigners and expats.

I have been wondering whether more dialogue (and prodding) by US officials with Chinese officials could yield a greater commmitment with respect to environmental enforcement. But the first question one would have to ask is why US officials would really care? I am quite certain that EPA and the US government generally “care” about environmental issues in China. But do they care enough to expend some diplomatic capital to raise such issues in high-level ministerial meetings? I don’t know what EPA Administrator Steve Johnson discussed with the SEPA director during his recent visit. But was such a meeting maybe a chance to discuss environmental enforcement and law implementation issues as has occurred with respect to IPR in other US/China ministerial meetings?

Wen on environmental pollution

Here’s one of the recent high-profile exhortations about the need to protect the environment. Premier Wen basically blamed local officials for not paying enough attention to environmental protection and focusing too much on economic development. (SCMP 4/19.)

But there was no effort to take responsibility for the incentive structure that drives local officials to put economic growth over environmental protection and also the lack of an adequate regulatory infra-structure at the national and sub-national level that is a basic prerequisite for an effective environmental protection scheme. As it is well known, the SEPA is way too small to act as the equivalent of the US EPA, especially given the size of China. Sigh . . .

Pesticide Residues in Vegetables

Here’s an unsettling item. In Hong Kong, Greenpeace found pesticide residues on vegetables sold at major supermarkets chains that significantly exceeded WHO standards, including some banned pesticides. (SMCP 4/18). In 30% of samples tested, residues of cypermethrin and Chlorpyrifos were found at levels of 1.2 to 12 times above WHO standards that Hong Kong follows. Some also contained banned pesticides DDT, lindane, delta-HCH and methamidophos. Most of the vegetables sold at the supermarket chains came from mainland China farms. Greenpeace’s press release on this can be found at:

What’s particularly unsettling to me is that it confirms many of the concerns I had about pesticide contaminated produce sold in Chinese markets while in Beijing last fall. If the controls in Hong Kong are insufficient to catch such problems, it is likely to be worse in the markets in mainland China. These findings also confirm how serious the problem of food safety is in China.

Environmental Goals under 10th 5-year plan

Eight of 20 environmental goals set under the 2000-2005 5-year plan were not met, according to SEPA. (China Daily 4/13) Most notable was a 27% increase in sulfur dioxide emissions, which were slated to be reduced 10% from 2000 levels. The increase has been ascribed to a hot economy which led to much higher energy, especially coal consumption.

There has also been a recent flap in the Chinese media about comments ascribed to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson that China is responsible for some mercury deposition in the US because of air emissions that travel across the Pacific. Johnson met with SEPA head Zhou Shengxian on April 10 in Beijing. The EPA Administrator made a special point of pointing out that he had been quoted out of context and that the US alone emits about 48 tons of mercuy into the air. (China Daily 4/14)

In itself, the assertion seems unremarkable and reasonable – that China’s significant air emissions might contribute to pollution in the US. And even if the US itself contributes to such emissions, that just means that air pollution is as much a national as well as a transboundary issue. (And there is little question that the US is a major environmental polluter.) But I suppose the more sensitive relations between the US and China require more care in how issues about fault and responsibility are framed. It’ll be interesting to see what concrete progress will be made with bilateral cooperation betweeen the US and China.

Worst Air Pollution in Beijing So Far This Year

Air pollution in Beijing was apparently so bad on Sunday that residents were told not to open their windows. (SCMP 4/11) It’s the result of the sand storms that come in every year in the spring from the deserts of Inner Mongolia province and Mongolia. The dust combines with traditional air pollutants to create the hazardous conditions. Nevertheless, the Beijing International Marathon was held that same day.