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International Cooperation on Chinese Environmental Law

Since the launch of the EPA - China Environmental Law Initiative in September, 2007, the EPA has participated in a number of meetings with officials of the China Ministry of Environmental Protection and other experts in order to further the goals of the initiative.








Cabinet-Level U.S.-China Meeting Recognizes the Office of General Counsel's Capacity Building in China

The U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue (S&ED) took place on July 10-11, 2013 in Washington, D.C., hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew.   This meeting is the main forum for U.S.-China policy dialogue among cabinet-level officials across a wide range of issues.  The environment portion of the discussion focused primarily on air pollution and climate change.  The new U.S.-China climate change working group issued its report, outlining cooperation on a number of issues  including  monitoring  of  GHG  emissions  and  improving  energy  efficiency  in buildings and industry.   The S&ED noted existing U.S.-China cooperative work streams and planned future work, including the Office of General Counsel's work with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection on strengthening environmental law and institutions and the Environmental Appeals Board's work on training on environmental adjudication and development of an environmental law curriculum.

The successful conclusion of the S&ED helps set the tone for future cooperation on strengthening Chinese environmental law and institutions, including stock-taking at the Administrator-level EPA-MEP Joint Commission on Environmental Cooperation meeting in   November in Beijing, and working level discussions in August with the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau on legal and policy tools for control of air pollution and with the Shanghai Office of Legislative Affairs and the China Ministry of Environmental Protection on transparency, public participation, and the role of experts in administrative decision-making.

EPA-China Environment Ministry Regional Air Quality Management Meeting

On April 18, 2013, the EPA Office of General Counsel participated in the 8th annual US – China Regional Air Quality Management Meeting (RAQM) organized by EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.  This marked the first time that the annual RAQM was held at EPA.  In previous years (2005-2011) the meeting was held in China. 

The fifteen Chinese participants included Director-General Zhao Hualin of the Pollution Control Department of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), other MEP officials, and officials of several provincial and city environmental departments.  EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciaseppe, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for the Office of International and Tribal Affairs Michelle DePass, and Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Joel Beauvais participated in various sessions of the meeting along with staff from EPA Office of Air and Radiation, Office of International and Tribal Affairs, and Office of General Counsel.  Prior to the RAQM meeting the visitors from China visited the South Coast Air Quality Management District in California and EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.  

The RAQM meeting focused on policy and legal tools that contribute to improving air quality, including  regional cooperation on multi-pollutant approaches, expanding use of low-sulfur fuels, and expanding public access to air quality information.  While China still faces enormous air quality management challenges, advances since the last RAQM include new standards for fine particles, widespread PM2.5 monitoring and “real-time” reporting of air quality, efforts towards regional air quality planning in key regions and cities, and recognition of the need for lowering sulfur content of fuels. 

During the meeting, the Office of General Counsel discussed legal authorities and accountability mechanisms that contribute to protecting air quality, including authorities for air quality standard-setting, mobile source provisions, and fuel provisions.  Specific points discussed included:

The meeting also included a discussion of ideas for further cooperative activities on air quality between EPA and MEP.     

OGC Participates in Environmental LawSymposium with Chinese Authorities

On December 17-20, 2012, Deputy General Counsel Bicky Corman visited Beijing to advance capacity building on environmental law and institutions in China by participating in a symposium with Chinese environmental authorities and meetings with Chinese environmental law experts and U.S. exporters of environmental goods and services.

The symposium on environmental legislation, which was hosted by the China Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), included more than 50 participants from MEP, provincial Environmental Protection Bureaus, academia, non-governmental organizations, and others. Issues addressed included citizen enforcement of environmental laws, environmental monitoring and pollutant discharge disclosure, and institutional measures for coordinating on pollution crossing state or provincial lines.

Following the citizen enforcement discussion, an official of the Ministry indicated interest in adding a provision on attorneys fees to the citizen enforcement provision currently under consideration.

Deputy General Counsel Corman also met with the Deputy Director-General of the MEP Department of Laws and Regulations to discuss continuing cooperation on environmental law under EPA-MEP Annex 6 on Environmental Law and Institutions. The Deputy Director- General indicated that previous engagements with OGC have significantly helped inform the development of pending environmental legislation. While in Beijing Deputy General Counsel Corman also met with:

OGC Participates in Panel Discussion on Environmental Public Interest Law in China

On November 29, 2012, OGC participated in a panel discussion on environmental public interest law in China hosted by the China Environment Forum. Other participants included the Vermont Law School and University of Maryland Law School.

EPA OGC attorney Jessica Scott examined in detail the background and progress on the first public interest lawsuit brought by China’s first legally registered independent environmental NGO Friends of Nature and a Yunnan based green two grassroots Chinese NGOs. A summary of the panel discussion is available on the China Environment Form web site.

Chinese Administrative Law Symposium

On October 24, 2012, OGC participated in a symposium at the University of Pennsylvania Law School entitled “The Future of Chinese Administrative Law,” sponsored by the American Bar Association Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Cardozo Law School. Speakers included the leading U.S. and Chinese experts on administrative law. The Chinese administrative law experts also visited EPA on October 22nd to discuss administrative law in the environmental law context.

The aim of the symposium was to take stock of the development of Chinese administrative law and explore possibilities for reform. A central theme was the degree to which traditional U.S. administrative law values such as transparency, public participation, and judicial review, and newer regulatory approaches such as cost-benefit and risk-based analysis, have informed Chinese administrative law thus far and might help to shape its future.

A more detailed discussion of the symposium is available.

Additional discussion:

The Future of Chinese Administrative Law Symposium, Posted by Kimberley Han (EAL Blog, 11/27/12)

Spotlight: Administrative Litigation Law on the Ground, and The Role of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Administrative Oversight Posted by Kimberley Han (EAL Blog, 11/27/12)

U.S./China Exchange On Environmental Legislation

On May 24 and 25, 2012, Deputy General Counsel Tseming Yang led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s participation in a workshop and study tour with the China Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) on environmental legislation.  The workshop was held in Beijing, and the study tour visited Tianjin and the Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA).

The workshop was attended by officials from the Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, from MEP’s Department of Law and Policy, MEP’s Department of Planning and Finance, MEP’s Department of Environmental Monitoring, MEP’s Bureau of Environmental Enforcement and Supervision, MEP’s Department of Pollution Control, MEP’s Chemical Registration Center, MEP’s Policy Research Center, and from Provincial and local Environmental Protection Bureaus. The workshop was organized by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, China Environmental Innovators, and Resources, Energy, and Environmental Law Institute.

The workshop focused on the experience of the U.S. and China with the collection, reporting, and disclosure of pollution data, including facility-level public disclosure of pollutant releases. Significant points discussed included:

1.  The U.S. EPA reported on the U.S. experience implementing the Toxics Release Inventory under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Topics addressed included benefits the U.S. obtained from public disclosure of pollution data, essential elements of the U.S. pollution data reporting and disclosure system, types of chemical pollutants and facilities covered by the disclosure requirement, research regarding the public’s use of the reported data, and how compliance with the reporting system is supported through enforcement.

2.  The China MEP reported on control of chemical pollution in China.  Topics addressed included the regulation systems for registration and reporting of new chemicals and high priority hazardous chemicals including the following elements: local authorities’ verification of chemical use and requirement for re- registration every three years, risk assessment, transfer reporting, and
disclosure of facility data on company’s website.

3.  At the invitation of the China MEP, the Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA) reported on its experience with environmental information transparency. Topics addressed included a pilot voluntary facility disclosure program with 33 participants and TEDA’s incentive system for voluntary disclosure including commendation letters to top performers, reports to banks, credits applied against environmental pollution assessments, and environmental classrooms. Additional topics included concerns regarding business need for confidentiality, information accuracy, and methods for acquisition of valid information.

The study tour on May 25 visited the Bin Hai New District Planning Exhibition Center and the new John Deere Co. manufacturing plant in Tianjin. A symposium was also held in which several companies reported on their pollution discharge control and reporting practices and participation in TEDA’s voluntary public reporting program.

Prior to the workshop and study tour, EPA participated in a roundtable discussion with NGOs operating in China and working on public disclosure of pollution data.  Attending the roundtable included representatives from Greenpeace East Asia, Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), Friends of Nature, and NRDC.

EPA and China Ministry of Environment Protection workshop on practical policy tools for strengthening supervision of pollution and protection of the environment

On November 17-18, 2011,  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency participated in a workshop with the China Ministry of Environmental Protection on environmental legislation.  The workshop, which focused on possible revisions to China’s environmental laws, was organized by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Environment and Resources Law Institute of Wuhan University.

The workshop included participants from the MEP Department of Law and Regulations, the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, the Environmental Protection and Resources Committee of the National People’s Congress, and environmental protection bureaus from Shaanxi province, Tianjin, Chongquing, Zhejiang, Hubei, Shenzhen, and Henan.  In addition, experts from University of California, Berkeley Law School and Vermont Law School US-China Partnership for Environmental Law also participated in the workshop. 

The main focus of the workshop was several practical policy tools for strengthening supervision of pollution and protection of the environment.  Takeaway messages included that:

-pollutant discharge data release requirements such as the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory have emerged as an important tool for creating incentive to reduce pollution.  By requiring public disclosure of pollutant release information, often via the Internet, such requirements (known internationally as PRTRS) can inform public debate and leverage competitive pressure and reputational risk as motivators, while providing vital information to communities on pollution that may directly affect them.  One example cited was the drop in U.S. emissions from 6 billion pounds to 3.7 billion pounds over a five year period of the implementation of EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory.  

-in the U.S. experience, a robust permitting system for emissions of air pollutants helps to provide legal mechanisms for public input and for cross-jurisdictional coordination on pollutant transport and helps facilitate compliance and enforcement,

-deterrence of violations of environmental law can be advanced by providing for adjudication of penalties that accumulate on a daily basis for as long as the violation continues, provided that polluters are forced to pay penalties that exceed the benefit of noncompliance, in order to ensure they do not gain an advantage over facilities that comply with the law,


-pollution liability insurance and other forms of financial assurance requirements can help to mitigate economic disruptions of pollution problems by ensuring that resources are available to handle the problems even if the responsible firms are unable to do so.

The day before the workshop, EPA attorneys met with NGOs working on environmental law issues in China, who lauded EPA’s role in encouraging coordination and information sharing among providers of capacity building.  EPA attorneys also participated in a workshop on developing a robust air pollutant permitting system organized by Natural Resources Defense Council and China Research Academy for Environmental Sciences.   

EPA Helps Chinese Officials Develop Legal Framework for Water Pollutant Permitting

In July, 2011, Bob Ward of Region 8's Office of Regional Counsel and Mark Ryan of Region 10's Office of Regional Counsel met with officials of the Jiangsu Province Environmental Protection Department and Nanjing University to help develop a pilot project on drafting permits for facilities that discharge to Tai Lake, which is a priority, inter-jurisdictional watershed in Eastern China.
This pilot project can be an important step towards the development of a stronger national legal framework for permitting in China, through regulations or guidance.  It is expected to include about 10-20 point sources.  Tai Lake has been selected as the site for the pilot in part because it has experienced significant eutrophication in the last thirty years, leading to a shutdown of the drinking water sources around the lake in 2007.  Tai Lake is a sole drinking water source for about one million people.  
During the meetings and a related site visit many problems in the current system were highlighted, including:   
  1. Weak legal basis for issuing permits (a new “policy” is pending approval with the provincial government)
  2. Significant problems with implementation of existing permits
  3. Permits not tied to ecological goals
  4. Monitoring system only covers COD for a small fraction of the total point sources 
  5. Approximately 180,000 point sources to regulate and limited permitting resources
  6. Technology-based standards not incorporated into the permits.

  The meeting also involved in-depth discussions with the Chinese officials and experts regarding an individual NPDES permit for a pulp & paper facility and a general permit for concentrated animal feeding operations.  
Related meetings were held in Beijing with the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Environment, Science, Technology and Health Section of the U.S. Embassy, and Natural Resources Defense Council.  

EPA Participates in Water Pollutant Permitting Workshop with Chinese Experts

On May 20, 2011, Nanjing University held a workshop on water pollutant discharge permitting in China. This workshop included experts from several Chinese and U.S. universities, officials from the Jiangsu and Changshu Environmental Protection Bureaus, and the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning. The Ministry of Environment of Indonesia also sent two officials, to consider launching a similar permitting project in Indonesia.

EPA Office of General Counsel official Bob Ward led a discussion of permitting under the Clean Water Act including discussion of the interplay between upstream and downstream states and EPA in NPDES permitting, and presented a case study on an interstate dispute regarding water quality standards and NPDES permits for coal bed methane producers.

The workshop included discussion of the status of permitting in China today, the roles of central government and provincial/local government authorities in permitting, uneven implementation of environmental law in different parts of China, and institutional issues. Chinese participants suggested that EPA consider the possibility of forming an interdisciplinary team that would work with Jiangsu Province authorities on the drafting of a sample or model permit for a facility polluting Tai Lake, a priority watershed for pollution control in Eastern China.

OGC also discussed both point source and non-point source pollution with officials of the Chinese Environment Ministry who visited EPA earlier in May.

OGC Discusses Rule of Law in Environmental Sector with Legal Experts in Asia

EPA Office of General Counsel attorneys moderated a panel on Environment at the Asia-Pacific Rule of Law conference sponsored by the World Justice Project (WJP) in January 2011. The WJP creates concrete collaborations to strengthen the Rule of Law in developing countries, and is adding environmental law to the scope of activities it undertakes. The panel included leading environmental NGOs from Philippines (Tony Oposa) and China (Ma Jun).

During the conference the Indonesian Environment Ministry requested international assistance in drafting a new producer responsibility law to address e-waste, among other issues. Chinese participants requested assistance in raising awareness of Pollutant Release Inventories like Toxics Release Inventory as a tool for improving access to environmental information and providing motivation for pollution reductions. A number of potential new international collaborations along these lines were discussed by meeting participants.

Office of General Counsel Participates in Meeting of the EPA-MEP Joint Committee on Environmental Cooperation (November 2010)

Photo of participants in JCEC meeting
L- R: Jessica Scott, Steve Wolfson (both OGC attorneys), Bie Tao (MEP), General Counsel Scott Fulton , Deputy General Counsel Tseming Yang, Tim Epp (EAB), Joshua Novikoff (OITA)

On November 16-17, OGC participated in a meeting In Washington, D.C. of the EPA-MEP Joint Committee on Environmental Cooperation (JCEC) established under a Memorandum of Understanding between the EPA and the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) of the People's Republic of China. The objective of the JCEC is to strengthen ongoing collaboration between the EPA and MEP and to explore new areas for cooperation. The JCEC also aims to facilitate contacts between environmental and scientific groups form the U.S. and China, including other government agencies, research institutions, business and industry, and universities.

Photo of Bie Tao (MEP) and General Counsel Scott Fulton
L- R: Bie Tao (MEP), General Counsel Scott Fulton


As part of the JCEC, General Counsel Scott Fulton and others met with Deputy Director General Bie Tao of the MEP Department of Laws and Regulations to take stock of cooperative activities during the last year and to plan activities for the coming year.

OGC Discusses Program Of Capacity Building Work In China (October 2010)

Photo of participants in JCEC meeting
OGC attorney Steve Wolfson (left) and Chinese legal specialists visit the Environmental, Health, and Safety Academy for Chinese Enterprises in Guangzhou.

OGC met with key lawyers in the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) on October 11. At the meeting, EPA General Counsel Scott Fulton discussed a new agreement to renew and enhance OGC’s cooperative work in China to build environmental law capacity and institutions. OGC shared with MEP translated judicial training materials from both EPA’s EAB and the UN Environment Program. A range of topics for cooperative work were discussed, including anticipated revisions to the air pollution control law, strengthening judicial institutions for handling environmental cases, strengthening capacity for MEP oversight of provincial application of environmental laws, filling legal gaps on chemicals management and soil pollution, and enhanced disclosure of environmental information.

Photo of Bie Tao (MEP) and General Counsel Scott Fulton
L- R: Bie Tao (MEP), General Counsel Scott Fulton

General Counsel Fulton accompanied Administrator Lisa Jackson and OITA Assistant Administrator DePass to several high-level meetings and events, including the renewal of the EPA-MEP MOU and the launch with the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau and EPA OAR of a real-time air quality data reporting system called AirNow.

General Counsel Fulton also addressed a group of leaders on environmental stewardship convened at an Environmental, Health, and Safety training academy in Guangzhou. OGC also participated in side meetings with Chinese environmental law experts to exchange views on developments in Chinese environmental law and to consider possible opportunities for collaboration. These included meetings with environment committee staff of the National People’s Congress, environmental NGOs, the Environment Committee of the All-China Lawyers’ Association, Nanjing University School of Environment Department of Environmental Planning and Management, and Shanghai environmental officials and prosecutors.

Chemical Assessment and Management Workshop in Beijing
(September 2010)

On September 14-16, EPA's Office of General Counsel participated in a workshop in Beijing on chemicals management organized by the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) and the Department of Pollution Prevention and Control of China's Ministry of Environment Protection (MEP) presented a joint workshop on chemical environmental management in Beijing. OPPT shared its experiences and expertise from 30 years of chemical assessment and management under the Toxic Substances Control Act. MEP described its regulatory scheme, including its new Decree No. 7, Regulation on Environmental Management of New Chemical Substances, issued in January 2010 of this year with implementation beginning this October 2010. Decree No. 7 requires companies to apply for registration for new chemicals and to provide data regarding their safety.

Building on previous exchanges between OPPT and MEP, this workshop included drew staff from MEP and associated institutes in Beijing as well as from various Chinese and from the provinces. It was an opportunity for staff of provincial environmental bureaus staff not only to learn how EPA performs chemical risk assessment and management and also , but to understand how to better understand how MEP their own headquarters will implement Decree No. 7.

OOGC also met on the side provided support for OPPT in the workshop and met with staff and MEP's Department of Policy and Law to discuss future cooperation on under Annex 5 of the Memorandum of OUnderstanding between EPA and MEP on scientific and technical cooperation, which provides for training and assistance in environmental law.

Office of General Counsel Presentation in Huzhou, China at China-US Clean Water Action Plan Technical Workshop (August 2010)

At the request of the Office of Water, Dave Gravallese, Assistant General Counsel for International Environmental Law, gave a presentation in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province, China at the second China-U.S. Clean Water Action Plan Technical Workshop.  Dave’s presentation discussed the Federal-State partnership in the U.S. regulatory system aimed at protection of surface waters.  His focus was on the Clean Water Act.  John Ungvarsky of EPA Region 9 gave a presentation at the same workshop on his cooperative work with China involving protection of the Yuqiao Reservoir and on integrated approaches to watershed protection in the U.S.  Dave and John also conferred with the Ministry of Environmental Protection about possible future activities in Office of Water's ongoing collaboration with China. 

About sixty people attended the workshop, including officials from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, various provincial and local authorities, and academia.  Representatives of the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and U.S. manufacturers of water pollution control equipment also participated.  The workshop took place on August 30 and 31.  

EPA Office of General Counsel Meets with Chinese Judiciary and Legislative Delegations (July, 2010)

On July 19, 2010, members of OGC’s EPA-China Environmental Law Initiative, led by Deputy General Counsel Tseming Yang, met with a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)-sponsored delegation of Chinese judges.  The delegation comprised of Chinese judges who were actively involved in researching policy reform on environmental public interest litigation.  For example, the delegates from the Supreme People’s Court (the highest court in China) and the Wuhan Maritime Court are currently involved in researching whether environmental agencies could bring environmental enforcement suits in the maritime courts.  Another delegate from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate is researching the development of a formal system to allow prosecutors to bring environmental civil litigations.  This research is important because the Procuratorate may only bring criminal cases, and civil claims might be appended to criminal cases.  Since civil cases are generally not brought as stand-alone cases, allowing prosecutors to bring environmental civil litigations would be a significant shift in current practice.

While meeting with the Chinese judges, OGC provided information about the EPA-China Environmental Law Initiative, discussed the challenges of interstate water pollution through a case study on the Chesapeake Watershed, and answered the judges’ questions on addressing interstate pollution.  During its two-day study tour, the judicial delegation also met with the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the Environmental Appeal Board, and the Department of Justice. 

After the meeting with EPA, Alex Wang, NRDC Director of the China Environmental Law Project, stated that “Our aim in organizing this group is to help China to develop a comprehensive framework on civil judicial enforcement (by agencies and citizens), and I believe that the engagement with EPA will play an important role in promoting this aim.”

On July 27, members of the Committee of Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation within the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China met with EPA OGC attorneys.  The Chinese delegation comprised of high-ranking officials from NPC’s Committee on Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation and was led by the Honorable Zhang Wengyue, Vice-Chairman of the Committee.  The NPC is the highest body of state power, and it exercises its power by amending and enforcing the Constitution, enacts basic national laws, and elects the highest ranking officials in the country, including the President and Vice President.  The NPC is composed of a Standing Committee and a number of special committees, which includes the Committee on Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation.  This Committee is charged with the responsibility of organizing the formulation and examination of draft laws related to environmental and natural resources protection and conducting exchanges with parliaments in other countries in this field. 

During the meeting, Vice Minister Zhang indicated that the legislative priorities for his committee include the following issues: protecting the ecological environment (i.e. nature reserves); addressing water pollution; enhancing soil quality, particularly in areas of pesticide usage and contaminants; and facilitating multilateral collaborations.  The meeting offered an opportunity to the China Environmental Law Initiative to learn more about the functions of the Committee, share information about EPA’s past work with other Chinese agencies, and explore opportunities for future collaborations with NPC.

The NPC delegation will also be meeting with members of the U.S. Congress to discuss climate change issues.

EPA Conducts Air and Water Permitting Workshops in Beijing and Nanjing ( May 2010)

An expert from EPA Region 8 Office of Regional Counsel,(ORC) gave a presentation on air quality permitting at the “Workshop on PM-2.5 and Ozone Air Quality Standards Development and Implementation and Co-benefits of Integrating Air Quality Management and Climate Change” sponsored by the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES), in conjunction with the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and the EPA Office of Air and Radiation. ORC also gave a second presentation on water permitting, sponsored by Nanjing University. In addition, ORC met with MEP officials in Beijing to discuss the evolution of the Clean Water Act.

OGC legal experts also provided insight on several legal topics:

ORC participated in a workshop on legal provisions for permitting of water pollutant discharges in Nanjing on May 19th and 20th. US AID provided travel funding for OGC to participate in this workshop to help strengthen legal basis for environmental permitting in China. OGC led discussions on four major topics: (1) overview of the CWA; (2) federal and state roles and responsibilities; (3) key permit provisions; (4) permit implementation policy issues. The meeting also included participants from the Jiangsu Environmental Protection Bureau, the Changsu Environmental Protection Bureau and the Jiangsu Environmental Monitoring Department. The information provided by OGC will be considered in development of China’s and Jiangsu Province’s pollution discharge permit policies.

EPA Office of General Counsel Discusses Clean Air Act and State Implementation Plans with Chinese Officials (October, 2009)

EPA Office of General Counsel gave a presentation and answered questions on Clean Air Act State Implementation Planning at a workshop on revision of the China Atmospheric Pollution Prevention and Control Law sponsored by Energy Foundation and the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection in Beijing, China on October 9, 2009.

China is currently revising its air pollution control law and was interested in the U.S. SIP planning system as one potential model for national-provincial planning and coordination mechanisms. Representatives of Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Energy Foundation Regulatory Assistance Project also made presentations on history of the Clean Air Act, Title V permitting, energy and climate change, mobile source controls, monitoring and reporting, and enforcement provisions.

EPA Discusses Site Remediation and Brownfields with Chinese Officials (May, 2009)

EPA Office of General Counsel gave a presentation and led a small group discussion including information on US Superfund and Brownfields laws at a symposium on Contaminated Site Cleanup and Redevelopment sponsored by the World Bank and the Jiangsu Province Environmental Protection Bureau in Nanjing, China May 19-20. 

China is completing an inventory of contaminated sites and has identified legislation to address contaminated sites as a gap in its legal authorities.  Environmental authorities at both the national and provincial levels sought information on approaches for funding, clean-up, how costs are apportioned, and ways in which a Brownfields-type approach might leverage funding for clean-up and redevelopment of some sites.  Officials in China are actively engaged in developing legislation to address clean-up and redevelopment of contaminated sites. 

2009 Annual Planning Meeting on Cooperation on Environmental Law and Enforcement (April, 2009)

EPA and the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) met in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2009 to plan cooperation on environmental law and enforcement under Annex 5 of the EPA-MEP Memorandum of Understanding on on Scientific and Technical Cooperation in the Field of Environment. The Annex 5 Work Plan, signed in 2008, calls for EPA and MEP to cooperate on activities to advance development of China’s environmental laws, implementation of enforceable requirements, use of environmental impact assessment, development and performance measurement of China’s environmental enforcement system, emergency response, and development of MEP’s regional offices.

MEP and EPA expressed strong interest in quickening the pace to move forward with the Annex 5 agenda. EPA's Office of General Counsel is particularly involved in the Environmental Law Project under Annex 5, which will focus initially on information exchange on U.S. law to help China develop legislation to fill gaps in its environmental law framework, especially with respect to remediation and redevelopment of contaminated sites.

EPA Office of General Counsel Provides Clean Water Act Overview to MEP Officials (November, 2008)

Photo of EPA and MEP representatives discussing legal provisions for prevention and control of water pollution.
EPA and MEP representatives discuss legal provisions for prevention and control of water pollution.

EPA's Office of Water hosted a meeting on November 20, 2008 with Shi Xiaojuan of the China Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) Department of Pollution Prevention and other MEP officials to launch the implementation of the Clean Water Action Plan (PDF, 8 pp, 41k).under the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue.  To set the stage for the discussion, EPA's Office of General Counsel presented an overview of the Clean Water Act (PDF, 44 pp, 230k).  EPA and MEP discussed China’s program for prevention and control of water pollution, water discharge permitting, and water quality standards. 

Article 20 of China’s Water Pollution Control Law (as revised in 2008) Exit EPA Disclaimer provides for prohibition of water pollution discharges without water pollution discharge permit. A for-comment draft of regulations outlining provisions for application, review, and approval of permits Exit EPA Disclaimer as well as inspection and penalties have been made public (available in Chinese only).

EPA and China MEP Launch Workplan for Cooperation on Environmental Law and Enforcement  (May, 2008)

On May 20-25, 2008, EPA's Office of General Counsel (OGC), Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), and EPA Regions III and IX participated in the first meeting of Project Managers under the EPA – China Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) MOU Annex 5 on Environmental Law and Enforcement.  The main objective of this meeting was to define cooperative work on development, implementation and enforcement of environmental law. 

The Annex 5 Work Plan for Sino-U.S. Cooperation in Environmental Law Development, Implementation, and Enforcement (PDF, 15 pp, 7.9 MB) was signed May 20, 2008.

The meeting, coordinated by EPA and MEP Enforcement Offices, included discussion  of cooperative work on

The EPA-MEP team also met with provincial and city environmental officials to learn first-hand how implementation of environmental laws operates at the provincial and city level. 

The Environmental Law Project

MEP's Department of Law, Policy, and Regulation has identified as main initial areas of interest in the Environmental Law Project legislative provisions for management of toxic chemicals, and the prevention and control of soil pollution and contaminated sites.  During the discussion MEP also expressed interest in cooperative work on provisions for relations between central authorities and provincial authorities.  This environmental law project under Annex 5 will provide a mechanism for sharing of EPA experiences under U.S. environmental laws.  

Symposium on Environmental Law and Regulation at Tsinghua University Environmental Policy Institute ( April, 2008)

EPA's Office of General Counsel and Tsinghua University Environmental Policy Institute hosted an expert symposium on Environmental Law and Regulation on April 13, 2008.  A range of Chinese and U.S. academic, government, and NGO expert speakers discussed the need for further legal reform and bolstering of MEP organization and authority, in particular the need to strengthen relations with and oversight of provincial and local environmental agencies. 

Click here for an overview of the symposium (PDF, 3 pp., 21k).

Joint Commission on Environmental Cooperation Meeting (December, 2007)

The Joint Commission on Environmental Cooperation (JCEC) met on December 14, 2007. The Joint Commission is a forum for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP, formerly SEPA) to discuss cooperation under the EPA-SEPA Memorandum of Understanding on Scienctific and Technical Cooperation in the Field of Environment, signed 12/8/03. (PDF, 10 pp, 382k. Includes Annexes 1-4)

SEPA Minister Zhou Shengxian discussed the new weight given to environmental protection in China's recent 17th Party Congress. EPA and SEPA reviewed progress and plans on cooperation under the existing four annexes to the EPA-SEPA MOU, covering Air, Water, Waste, and Toxics.

Then the meeting turned to discussion of environmental law and enforcement. Lu Xinyuan, Director of SEPA’s Department of Environmental Protection Enforcement and Inspection, indicated that 2008 is a crucial year in China’s law making and law enforcing efforts. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson emphasized the importance of having good environmental laws and regulations in place and having them enforced. Administrator Johnson and Director Lu then signed the new Annex 5 to the EPA-SEPA MOU on December 14, 2007. This Annex covers Development, Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law.

Sulfur Dioxide Emissions Trading Program
China announced plans to develop and implement a nationwide program on sulfur dioxide emissions trading in the power sector. The United States will provide technical assistance to support the development of the necessary infrastructure and institutional capacity for the successful implementation of the program.

The US - China Joint Economic Study (JES) (December, 2007) provided economic analyses of energy saving and pollution abatement policies for the electric power sectors of China and the United States.

The JES noted that installation of flue gas desulfurization equipment and shutdown of small coal-fired boilers are two key policy approaches to reach China's 11th Five-Year Plan energy saving and SO2 emissions targets. The JES indicates that benefits of controlling SO2 emissions would outweigh costs and that a cap and trade approach could achieve lower emissions at less cost than other approaches. The JES noted some important steps forward taken in China, including execution of “Total Sulfur Dioxide Reduction Letter of Responsibility” with provincial and municipal government authorities and six major power companies, issuance by SEPA and the National Reform and Development Commission (NDRC) of a draft Desulfurization Operation and Management Plan for coal-fired generating units that would require construction and operation of FGD equipment at new and expanded coal-fired generating plants, restrictions on sulfur content of coal, requirements to install continuous emission monitors, and an increase in the SO2 Pollution levy amount.

The report identifies that for any air quality program to succeed, effective institutions, infrastructure, and incentives are critical. These include emission measurement protocols to ensure accuracy and consistency, non-compliance penalties high enough to provide an incentive to comply with program rules, and consistent implementation across the country.

Additional information on cooperation between the EPA Office of Air and Radiation and the China Ministry of Environmental Protection is available at the Clean Air and Energy Projects in China web page.

Launch of EPA - China Environmental Law Initiative (September, 2007)

Organizations with which the OGC delegation met in China
Photo of former EPA General Counsel Roger Martella (left)  
    and Bie Tao, Deputy Director of MEP's Policy and Law Department
Former EPA General Counsel Roger Martella (left) and Bie Tao, Deputy Director of MEP's Policy and Law Department

Former General Counsel Roger R. Martella launched the EPA - China Environmental Law Initiative in September, 2007. Accompanied by EPA Region 8 Regional Counsel Bob Ward and Office of General Counsel International Practice Group attorney Steve Wolfson, the General Counsel traveled to China and met with Chinese environmental officials and Chinese environmental law experts from universities, NGOs, and industry.

The trip came about in the context of increasing Administration cooperation with China through the Strategic Economic Dialogue and increasing EPA cooperation with China in recent years The meetings were organized with a great deal of assistance from the U.S. Embassy and Consulates and the American Bar Association.

Major themes of the meetings included:

Environmental Legislation and Regulation

Chinese experts noted a need to strengthen aspects of China’s environmental laws and the opportunity to learn from the U.S. in a number of areas, including regulation of enterprises, environmental federalism Exit EPA Disclaimer, and the use of market-based mechanisms. 

Discussion focused on several key aspects of China's environmental protection framework, including:

Roundtable on Environmental Federalism at Sun Yat-Sen University (in conjunction with Vermont Law School)

Water Pollution Control Law Amendments were adopted in February, 2008. Exit EPA Disclaimer In addition, future legislation may include provisions on oil and gas pipelines, energy efficiency in construction and recycling, as well as possible amendments to some of the basic environmental laws.  Corporate responsibility is being considered as well, as China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP, formerly SEPA) is working with the Chinese banking system to include consideration of environmental compliance in credit decisions. 

Reduction of Major Pollutants

The 11th Five Year Plan provides for a 10% reduction in major pollutants by 2010.   These reduction targets may vary between the provinces and even within the provinces.  Those interested in China’s direction on environmental protection will be closely tracking progress towards these targets.

Regional Offices of China's Ministry of Environmental Protection

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP, formerly SEPA) is working to enhance its presence throughout China by developing regional offices.  These MEP “Regional Supervision CentersExit EPA Disclaimer are said to have authority to supervise the provincial Environmental Protection Bureaus (EPBs) in their jurisdiction but not to instruct them on what to do.  Implementation and enforcement responsibility rests primarily with the EPBs.  Regional office responsibilities can also include emergency response, addressing inter-provincial pollution problems, and follow-up on complaints.  In the near future the central government might give more authority to the MEP, including the regional offices.    

Workshops on Environmental Conflict Resolution in Beijing

Environmental Conflict Resolution

A number of Chinese environmental officials and experts noted the large number of disputes and complaints they receive, and expressed interest in environmental conflict resolution. Working with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative Exit EPA Disclaimer, EPA held workshops in Beijing and Wuhan with Chinese environmental officials and other experts on using ADR techniques for environmental conflict resolution.


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