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September, 2012:

Officials realise dirty engines need to be replaced


Submitted by admin on Sep 29th 2012, 12:00am


In response to Peter Inglis’ letter (“Chief executive must have courage to deal with our polluted air”, September 26), I wish to affirm this administration’s commitment to improve air quality in Hong Kong.

I also wish to affirm that the protection of public health is the key guiding principle in the formulation of air quality improvement measures.

In the coming months, the public will see a number of major proposals and initiatives aimed at dealing with specific air quality problems, the most important of which is roadside pollution arising from vehicles, especially diesel commercial vehicles. The reason these sources of pollution present the biggest problem is because they have the greatest day-to-day impact on public health. Quite simply, dirty engines need to be replaced.

Emissions from ships also cause harm. A number of leading shipping companies signed the voluntary at berth fuel-switching Fair Winds Charter that came into operation in 2011. While the government has complemented their efforts by reducing port dues for those vessels switching to using cleaner fuel, the administration agrees with the signatories that regulation is the way forward. We will work hard to make this happen.

We will further tighten the emission allowances for power plants, as well as consider changing Hong Kong’s fuel mix for electricity generation to significantly lower or even eliminate coal usage.

We will be engaging with experts, stakeholders and community groups shortly to kick-start a discussion on what may be the right fuel mix for Hong Kong going forward in the next decade.

Another vital task is for Hong Kong and Guangdong to collaborate to reduce air pollution. Only by sustained regional efforts will we improve ambient air quality. We are working on specific emissions reduction targets by 2020 and these will be announced shortly.

There are other key areas we are working on right now, such as revising the air pollution index system, which we will put forward in the coming half year.

Mr Inglis acknowledges that there is a cost involved in cleaning up. I agree with him that higher mortality and more illnesses from air pollution are also costly. However, the debate about how the pollution reduction costs are to be shared is not easy, even for a wealthy city like ours.

We will need public support on the many measures in the pipeline.

Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment


Air quality in HK

roadside pollution

Diesel commercial vehicles

Fuel mix

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 1st 2012, 6:06am):

Airport saga continues

SCMP Laisee 29 Sept 2012

Readers may be familiar with the continuing struggle between green non-governmental groups and the Airport Authority over conducting a social return on investment (SROI) study on the proposed third runway.

The authority steadfastly resisted the move, even after it was urged to conduct one by the Legislative Council’s environmental panel. The green groups were therefore stunned when the authority on September 19 issued a press release headlined “Airport Authority goes extra mile to appraise impact of planned three-runway system”.

The green groups felt this was disingenuous since the authority has not agreed as such to conduct an SROI. It issued its own response recently, arguing that the authority “still has many more miles to go to establish itself as a socially responsible airport”. It reiterates its key claim that the authority has “remained reluctant to commit to the environmental group’s key demands for a social and environmental cost assessment”. It also warns that unless it does agree it will not participate in technical briefing groups organised as part of the environmental impact assessment process.

All this is proving very awkward for the authority since recently announcing its objective of becoming the greenest airport in the world.

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Durham to start landfill mining by 2014–durham-to-start-landfill-mining-by-2014

Goal is to convert garbage dumps into recreation spots

DURHAM — Years from now, Durham’s landfills could be playgrounds and soccer fields.

That’s the vision Region of Durham staff is working towards as it advances plans to start “landfill mining.”¨ The concept sees material excavated from landfills and sorted into soil, recyclables, combustible materials and residual waste. Soil can then be remediated and the site refilled.

The plan comes at a time when many incineration opponents are questioning whether there will be enough garbage to feed the new Clarington energy-from-waste facility — especially as Durham moves towards a target of 70-per cent waste diversion.

Mirka Januszkiewicz, the Region’s director of waste management, says landfill mining will “close the loop” by turning landfills into usable community space and sending excavated waste to the incinerator.

In many communities, mining is done to create more space in jam-packed landfill sites, but Durham is pursuing the idea to repurpose the sites.

“The hope is that we can turn the landfills into recreation properties,” Ms. Januszkiewicz says. “We are not doing this to create more space in the landfill, we are doing this to clean it up.”

When the Region of Durham was established in 1974, seven municipal landfills came under its jurisdiction.

The plan is to start mining with the smallest one — Cartwright landfill, located in Blackstock.

Regional council approved the idea in principle last year.

The procurement process for a contractor is expected to start by fall 2013 with mining slated to begin by late 2014 or early 2015.

If the Cartwright site is a success, staff plans to continue with the Scott landfill in Uxbridge.

The Region is currently spending about $150,000 a year to maintain the seven landfills under its care, including water sampling and seepage repairs.

The cost of mining the Cartwright landfill is estimated at $390,000.

Staff said the Region’s larger landfills would likely be more expensive, but could also produce more recyclable metal which offsets the price tag.

Hong Kong government must set good example with green policies

Submitted by admin on Sep 26th 2012, 12:00am

Comment› Letters

Imagine a surgeon observing a dying patient surrounded by the most expensive gizmos available and the best staff (yes, I value the amazing Hong Kong health service), saying they could not undertake any operations for the next 20 years because the committee hearing the findings of the public inquiry can’t decide on whether they are worth saving.

The misleading levels of pollution reported in Hong Kong since 1992 dismay me.

These days, we are less likely to hear the term “haze” or “the high levels of pollution result from an anticyclone”. Now, we do hear “dangerous levels of pollution”, “stay indoors”, “don’t exercise outside”, “keep children and elderly indoors”. This is a tiny step towards recognising reality.

There seems to be a conspiracy theory which suggests that containers full of Guangdong pollution are loaded onto archaic trucks and driven to Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok and offloaded at dawn to poison our poor bankers, schoolchildren and bird lovers.

Those who own the trucks, buses, power stations and ships are not immune to toxins and emphysema. Don’t we all have to breathe air?

We have one of the longest life expectancies on the planet, but for how long?

I would like to ask our chief executive to have the courage to address this issue as a matter of urgency. I am asking for accountability.

Promises to improve housing, health care and pensions will count for nothing unless those of you in the government’s ranks wake up to the reality that you need to make some blindingly obvious choices.

Ban filthy buses and trucks (or employ competent people who know how to fix them regularly and enforce regulations), stop filthy fuel being used in ships in and around Hong Kong waters and get a more effective filtration system in operation in power stations (remove the profit guarantee unless CLP and Hongkong Electric do so). That’s a start. Of course, people will say that it is so expensive. For whom? Dying slowly is cheap? Think days off work or in hospital, or gasping for air.

If the correct example is set, the intelligent, responsible people of Hong Kong will realise it is in their interests to recycle, waste less, consume less, insulate and conserve.

Let’s face reality. We have one planet to look after. Greed, stupidity and inertia are not attractive attributes when there is a life-threatening ailment.

Peter Inglis, Fanling


Pollution in Hong Kong

Government responsibility

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 28th 2012, 6:52am):

High tariffs locked into a bad agreement             SCMP Letters 28 Sep 2012

Given problems in the global economy, a lot of people in Hong Kong have found that their incomes have been reduced and some have even lost their jobs.

Despite this, prices of many items keep rising, and electricity bills for consumers remain high. This is connected to the current electricity tariff arrangement.

The rationale behind a product price rise can differ from firm to firm. Some may seek better profit margins, others may be wanting to cover increased production costs.

It is not that simple with Hong Kong’s two main power companies. I accept that they are trying to change the way power is generated. They want to eventually replace coal with liquefied natural gas, which is the cleanest fossil fuel. This approach certainly involves a substantial investment and the firms might justify a bill rise because they want to pass on some of the cost to consumers.

Some would argue that this is not acceptable if the firms recognise their corporate social responsibility, but I think they are acting responsibly by trying to reduce emissions.

We need to accept there is a price to pay for a cleaner environment.

However, despite this, I do think the scheme of control agreement signed in 2008 is outdated and unfair. But, having signed it, the government cannot change it until 2018. It should reflect on this and in future refrain from signing long-term agreements.

Short-term deals will enable it to rectify any undesirable situations with greater ease.

Also, there must be the option of mid-term reviews of agreements. This enables officials to monitor the effectiveness of a policy.

Janet Wong Hung-wa, Ma On Shan

Does new position turn the poacher into a gamekeeper?

Submitted by admin on Sep 27th 2012, 12:00am



Howard Winn   27 Sep 2012

A few eyebrows have been raised at Mike Kilburn’s decision to change jobs. It’s not so much because he is leaving the think tank Civic Exchange, where he was head of environmental strategy for four years, but because he has joined the Airport Authority. There have been murmurings about this being a case of “poacher turned gamekeeper”.

In his work for Civic Exchange, Kilburn says he always wrote from a perspective of neutrality, though elsewhere he has written some fairly trenchant articles. In CleanBiz Asia he wrote about the desire of green NGOs and the Legislative Council’s environmental panel for a “social return on investment” study on the third runway.

Kilburn highlighted the authority’s initial position, which was to do the legal minimum and carry out an environmental impact assessment. He described the authority’s stance as “out of touch”. People have observed that in offering him a job as senior manager environment, the authority has “taken out” a potentially influential critic.

But Kilburn assured Lai See that this was not the case. The position he applied for was established, he said, to help the airport to become the world’s greenest and to manage the sustainability reporting process. He says he won’t be working on the third runway project or be involved in the environmental impact assessment. He also says that after years of writing reports on what needed to be done, his new job is a chance to try to implement some of these ideas.

He believes the authority has a platform to do certain things that will have a positive effect on the city’s environment. “The fact that it has set itself the challenge of becoming the world’s greenest airport creates a driver for change which I am eager to make the best of,” he said.

There were similarities between doing policy research and sustainability reporting in that each involved trying to change prevailing mindsets, he added. “The corporate world in general has a great part to play in improving the overall sustainability in Hong Kong. I certainly do not think that the green groups are the only place … where you can try to be influential.” He sees it as a different platform to work on the same issue.

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Mike Kilburn

Environmental Impact Assessment

Airport Authority

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 27th 2012, 5:33am):

Description: 2c7be165665c2e8b6675eae1b9ef717d.jpg

Sinopec closes three petroleum plants after pollution exposed on state TV

Submitted by admin on Sep 27th 2012, 12:00am



Li Jing

Sinopec shuts down production at three plants in Guangdong after company is shown being dressed down over emission violations

Petrochemical giant Sinopec has suspended production at three subsidiaries in Guangdong after a state television exposé showed the company being scolded in an internal meeting over severe environmental pollution breaches.

In rare coverage by state television, CCTV broadcast footage yesterday showing inspectors from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Guangdong’s provincial environmental protection bureau berating the company for repeated regulatory violations.

Zhou Quan , director of the bureau’s inspection office, pounded a table and shouted: “This is a blatant [violation]. And no one supervised [the companies] and asked them to correct [their wrongdoings] even though it was crystal clear that their pollution emissions were beyond national standards.

“Even so, [the companies] are still bullying local governments all the time, claiming [their operation] is important for the national economy and people’s livelihood. Then what about the livelihood of local people?”

CCTV reported that Zhanjiang Dongxing Refinery, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed China Petroleum & Chemical – Sinopec – dumped toxic sewage in rainwater drains without proper treatment. The plant was also found to have resumed operation without approval after being ordered to shut down in May for failing to relocate residents.

Another subsidiary, Sinopec Guangzhou Petrochemical, illegally stored a large amount of liquid in two tanks designed for emergency use only, posing high environmental risks.

And Xinzhongmei Chemical Industrial, a joint venture in Zhanjiang partially controlled by Sinopec, tried to dilute its waste with tap water before dumping it. CCTV reported that Mo Zhi , the company’s general manager, described the pungent odour from drainage pipes as “cooking smells” in an attempt to cover up the illegal handling of the waste.

Sinopec said it had ordered the three plants to suspend production and sent a team to investigate. “[We will] severely deal with those who are responsible and the subsidiary management according to the results of the investigation,” the company said.

Greenpeace China campaigner Ma Tianjie said illegal dumping through drains was normal practice on the mainland for many factories.

“But it is extremely irresponsible for petrochemical companies to do so because their waste is highly toxic,” he said.

In recent years, plans for petrochemical projects have met with strong opposition from people living nearby, leading to massive demonstrations in a number of mainland cities, including Dalian in Liaoning and Xiamen in Fujian .

Environmentalists said the CCTV exposé revealed an inconvenient truth, with powerful state-owned enterprises frequently escaping supervision because the local environmental watchdogs were too lax.

CCTV showed Zhang Zhimin , from the environment ministry, who headed the inspection team, asking: “Why, in their previous visits, did local environmental authorities fail to find out the problems and risks in the three plants?”



petroleum plants


Source URL (retrieved on Sep 27th 2012, 5:33am):

No Incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau

Submitted by admin on Sep 25th 2012, 12:00am



Howard Winn

No Incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau
We hear that the previous government’s proposed monster incinerator – which it suggested siting near the scenic island of Shek Kwu Chau – will not go ahead. It will be recalled that this controversial project involved building the incinerator on reclaimed land next to the island which is off south Lantau. The total project was expected to cost about HK$23 billion and was anticipated to handle a daily capacity of 3,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste.

When the Environmental Protection Department sought funding from the Legislative Council earlier this year, the project was shelved. However, there are a number of outstanding judicial reviews with respect to the project to be heard later this year. The original preferred site for the project was Tang Tsui near the landfill in Tuen Mun.

The project raised controversy after Donald Tsang’s government decided that the political cost of locating it in Heung Yee Kuk leader Lau Wong Fat’s fief was too great and Shek Kwu Chau “emerged” as the government’s favoured location. Although it has been shelved, mysterious forces have been at work to advance the project. Groups such as the Hong Kong Islands District Association, a United Front organisation, was able to access government environmental funds to organise subsidised trips to Singapore and Taiwan to study incinerators. It is not known how the government proposes to deal with the problem of waste disposal.

Green groups spar with AAHK
The sparring between the green groups and the Airport Authority over a study to consider the social return on investment (SROI) of the third runway rumbles on. The green groups and the legislative council want the authority to carry out this study. The authority, which talks of wanting to become the greenest airport in the world, is prevaricating by saying that it, too, wants to study the social and environmental impact of the runway, but says it has yet to find the best method. It has so far ignored the SROI that was conducted for a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport which contributed to the shelving of the project. This is not the outcome the authority is seeking. The green groups intend to hold their own meeting to discuss the carbon emission audit and the SROI, and to invite the authority to attend.

Description: 2ef6f23ccf7d1da2e518beb839cb4395.jpg

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Director of Public Prosecutions

Shek Kwu Chau

Waste disposal

Environmental Protection Department

Airport Authority

Social return on investment

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 25th 2012, 6:40am):


Hung Hom recycling scheme faces closure over high costs

Submitted by admin on Sep 25th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

Unless Hung Hom initiative to reprocess rubbish gets more government aid, it may have to shut due to hefty cost increases in rent and insurance

A community-based rubbish recycling scheme warned yesterday that sharp increases in its insurance and rent costs may doom the project – and others like it – unless it can get more funds from the government.

The recycling scheme is based in Hung Hom and run by the Ever Green Association. Its insurance fees for workers’ injury and compensation had increased more than 16 times – from HK$5,000 to HK$90,000 – in the past 18 months, said the association’s executive secretary, Virginia Ip Chiu-ping.

Rent at the project’s base had risen from HK$18,000 in 2010 to HK$30,000, Ip said. These costs could eat up half of the HK$1.2 million in funding the project was awarded 18 months ago from the government’s Environment and Conservation Fund.

“We feel as if the fund is being robbed, and there is nothing we can do to resist,” said Yip. “Now most of our funding and income goes to the landlord.”

The Hung Hom project helps nearby residents separate their rubbish, to promote recycling, and provides collection services for plastic recyclables.

Dr William Yu Yuen-ping, a member of the Environment and Conservation Fund’s vetting committee, said committee members were aware of the situation facing agencies like Ip’s.

“It is not an isolated phenomenon, but is beyond the control of the fund,” he said. “However, we are trying our best to help these agencies.”

Ip, too, warned that such costs could force other small-scale, community-based agencies out of business.

She said some insurance firms had refused to sell them any coverage, while others had quoted unaffordable prices because they thought the government might provide more funding.

Some insurers had labelled waste recovery a dangerous business, Ip said, acknowledging that one of their employees broke a leg at work.

She applied to renew the project’s funding last week, and is awaiting a final decision. She is seeking a HK$1.1 million subsidy for 12 months of operation, hiring two full time and six part-time employees.

Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por said the higher insurance fees correspond to the risk of workplace accidents.

“It is not uncommon for drivers and workers to get hurt while moving loads of metal and paper; their working environment is often riskier [than average],” he said.

Insurers paid little attention to the recycling sector until earlier this year, when statisticians worked out the risks, Chan said.

The sector’s insurance fees now cost 18 per cent of the average total wage package, he said.


Financial Institutions


recycling scheme

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 25th 2012, 6:34am):

Data Centers Sap the Environment

Despite having an image of being environmentally friendly, many tech companies waste large amounts of power and routinely violate clean-air regulations, according to a yearlong investigation by The New York Times. Digital warehouses that hold servers for online companies use more than 30 billion watts of electricity, and in some cases these centers waste up to 90 percent of the electricity they purchase. The Times also found that many of these companies use backup generators that rely on diesel fuel in case there is a power outage and are on California’s list of top diesel polluters.

Read it at The New York Times

September 23, 2012 1:18 PM

Clearer air at the end of the tunnel at last

Submitted by admin on Sep 22nd 2012, 12:00am



Howard Winn

For someone who has been bellyaching about Hong Kong’s air quality for the past 18 months, and for the NGOs that have been at it for much longer, it was music to the ears to hear the environment secretary say air quality – roadside pollution, in particular – was to be a priority for his department. It’s the best news on the environment front for the past eight years, or however long do-next-to-nothing Donald Tsang was chief executive.

But the most interesting point was that the government acknowledged, for the first time, the connection between air quality and public health. This is an enormous step, since it means that dealing with our foul air becomes not just a matter of cost but also a question of benefits in the form of better public health, a reduced number of avoidable deaths, lower occupancy of hospital beds and fewer visits to doctors. It’s believed the bureau intends to announce initial proposals for dealing with roadside pollution ahead of the chief executive’s policy speech in January. If C.Y. Leung’s administration delivers on this and achieves nothing else, it will still be light years ahead of the previous administration.

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Roadside pollution in Hong Kong

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 22nd 2012, 5:16am):