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October, 2012:

New political appointments unveiled for policy bureaus

SCMP Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 5:50pm


Professor Sophia Chan, former head of the University of Hong Kong nursing school. Photo: Oliver Tsang

The government announced the appointment of two undersecretaries and five political assistants to its policy bureaus on Wednesday.

Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, former head of the University of Hong Kong nursing school, will become undersecretary for food and health.

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, currently the principal assistant secretary for food and health, was appointed undersecretary for education.

Chan, 54, began her career as a nursing student at Queen Mary Hospital in the 1970s, before moving into the academic field. She is now research director of HKU’s nursing school.

Chan, an expert in health protection measures such as tobacco controls, will be deputy to Dr Ko Wing-man, head of the Food and Health Bureau.

Yeung, 49, was administrative assistant to Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing for more than four years before moving to the Food and Health Bureau in 2010. He is the first administrative officer to leave the civil service and become a political appointee in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s administration.

The five new political assistants include veteran journalist and public relations consultant Carmen Cheung Sau-lai, who was appointed assistant to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Julian Law Wing-chung, a former journalist at the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao Daily, will become assistant to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

The other three will serve in policy bureaus.

Jeff Sze Chun-fai, a former executive director at the Savantas Policy Institute think tank, will join the Education Bureau.

Zandra Mok Yee-tuen, who was the political assistant to the secretary for Labour and Welfare from 2008 until June this year, returns to that position; and retired chief superintendent of police Cassius Lau Fu-sang will join the Security Bureau.

Chan and Cheung assume office on Thursday, and the others will follow later this month.

Wednesday’s appointments were the third batch of political appointees named by Leung’s administration. The government has appointed five undersecretaries and one political assistant since June.

Under the political appointment system, each of the 12 policy bureaus has one undersecretary and one political assistant. Two more political assistants are appointed to help the chief secretary and financial secretary respectively.

Environmental protests in China on dramatic rise, expert says

Submitted by john.kennedy on Oct 29th 2012, 12:47pm


John Kennedy


The number of major environmental protests in China grew by 120 per cent from 2010 to 2011, according to Yang Chaofei, vice-chairman of the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences.

Speaking on Friday at a lecture organised by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on the social impact of environmental problems, attended [2] by finance news magazine Caijing, Yang revealed that the number of environmental “mass incidents” has grown an average 29 per cent annually, from 1996 to 2011.

According to Yang, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has handled a total of 927 incidents since 2005, 72 of which were classified as major incidents. He said that incidents involving heavy metal pollution and dangerous chemicals have been on the rise since 2010.

The government stopped releasing most protest statistics several years ago after the annual number of “mass incidents” surpassed 100,000. The latest figure most often cited is from Tsinghua University sociology professor Sun Liping, who estimates there were180,000 protests and riots [3] in 2010.

The Caijing report references recent information from Xinhua and the Beijing News, the latter of which responded to Yang’s claim that only 1 per cent of environmental disputes are resolved in court with an editorial calling for an overhaul of existing environmental law.

Key problems, writes Beijing News, include abuse of protection from environmental lawsuits, and the lack of provisions allowing for lawsuits which seek compensation for environmental damage.

Protests throughout the weekend [4] in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, were successful in stopping plans to expand a local plant producing the toxic chemical paraxylene, or PX. Protests defeated PX plants in Xiamen and Dalian in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

An infographic published by economic news magazine Caixin last week shows there are a total of thirteen PX plants [5] in China, the majority spread along the coastal region.

Articles on previous environmental protests:

Dalian plant to relocate after thousands protest [6]

Factory axed as Shifang heeds protesters’ calls [7]

City scraps waste pipeline after thousands protest [8]

Arrests made in factory protest [9]

Ningbo petrochemical factory protesters win pledge to halt project [10]


Ningbo PX Project

Environmental Protests

More on this:

Ningbo factory protesters return despite official pledge [11]

Ningbo petrochemical factory protesters win pledge to halt project [10]

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 30th 2012, 5:06pm):


Maple Ridge News – Cache Creek mayor wants toxic incinerator ash gone

Cache Creek mayor wants toxic incinerator ash gone


By Maple Ridge News
Published: October 26, 2012 05:00 PM
Updated: October 26, 2012 05:425 PM

Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta is demanding the removal of nearly 2,000 tonnes of hazardous waste ash that he says was illegally sent to the regional landfill his village hosts from Metro Vancouver’s Burnaby incinerator.

Fly ash from the waste-to-energy plant’s scrubbers had higher than allowed levels of leachable cadmium in July and August but was shipped to the Cache Creek landfill because incinerator operator Covanta was slow to report the test results.

“An inappropriate substance has been deposited in there,” Ranta said. “Whoever is responsible should have the material removed.”

Metro officials have said they are working with the environment ministry to determine whether the deposited fly ash must be removed.

Some of the tested samples contained more than double the concentration of cadmium B.C. allows for dumping in municipal landfills.

Ranta said the landfill isn’t licensed to accept hazardous waste and it was “simply wrong” for it to be sent there, putting landfill workers and the local environment at risk.

Cache Creek residents don’t take such matters lightly, Ranta said, noting they blockaded the Trans Canada Highway to keep millions of dead chickens from being dumped there during the avian flu outbreak of 2004.

Covanta has apologized for the reporting error, saying it was not intentional.

Fraser Valley Regional District politicians say the incident underscores why they don’t trust Metro’s drive to build a new waste-to-energy plant.

“Ultimately this is Metro Vancouver’s responsibility,” FVRD vice-chair Patricia Ross said. “They let this slip through the cracks. This does not give us any confidence whatsoever.”

She noted the incident might never have been discovered or made public had landfill operator Wastech not realized in late September that the usual test results had stopped arriving and demanded them.

When Covanta did hand over the results they did not flag the failed readings, according to a Wastech memo to Metro staff obtained by Black Press.

“The company (Covanta) made no mention of the irregularity in the test results and made no mention of concern with the hazardous waste material sent to the Cache Creek landfill,” the Wastech memo said.

It also reveals that it was Wastech’s decision, not Metro’s, to suspend all deliveries of fly ash to the landfill on Sept. 26 over safety concerns.

Metro has instead been sending incinerator ash to a Hinton, Alberta landfill, after staging some of it initially at the Annacis Island sewage treatment plant.

Subsequent loads of fly ash have tested within limits and Covanta is working to determine whether the exceedances were due to a testing error or the problems with the method used to stabilize the cadmium in the ash.

Cadmium is a carcinogenic metal found in batteries and some plastics.

The Burnaby incinerator burns 285,000 tonnes of garbage per year.

Covanta is one of the expected bidders to build a new waste-fired plant, expected to handle 370,000 tonnes per year.

Find this article at:

Sweden to Import Garbage as Trash Supplies Run Dry

As other nations throughout the world struggle to cut the amount of waste piling up in their landfills and marring the landscape, Sweden is facing an entirely different sort of challenge — they’ve run out of trash. Now they’re forced to import some more.

Swedes, you see, are among the planet’s least wasteful people, on average recycling around 96 percent of the garbage they produce. And with what’s left, they’ve found a way to use, having implemented a world-class waste-to-energy incineration program capable of providing electricity sufficient to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

But their hyper-efficiency has led to a unique problem: a trash shortage that could threaten the energy production capacity.

So, what is Sweden to do? Well, according to Swedish officials, the notoriously tidy nation will begin importing garbage from their neighbor Norway — about 800,000 tons of it annually, in fact, to fulfill their energy needs.

Perhaps the best part of all is that, in solving their problem, Swedes actually stand to profit from this endeavor; the Norwegians are going to pay them to take their waste, proving quite succinctly that one nation’s trash can truly be another’s treasure trove.

Paying for clean air can never be too expensive


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

Comment›Insight & Opinion

SCMP Editorial

A government study has shown that the city achieved its overall clean-air targets in 2010, cutting emission levels of four pollutants by up to 60 per cent compared with 1997. But this ignores the real problem – roadside air pollution – which just keeps getting worse.

Since the study was released, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has named the environment as one of the deep-rooted problems he will address with an interventionist approach to governing, such as phasing out old diesel-run vehicles. And environment secretary Wong Kam-sing has said the government will consider tough measures, such as not renewing licences for diesel commercial vehicles more than 15 years old, which are among the chief roadside-pollution culprits.

We trust this is a taste of things to come. Road transport accounted for 286,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide pollution in 2010, up 15,000 tonnes in one year alone. When other countries are preparing to introduce Euro VI emission standards starting next year, Hong Kong still has 60,000 Euro I and II emission standard vehicles of 12 to 18 years old on its roads.

Wong said what air-quality experts have been saying for years – that if Hong Kong is to tackle bad air seriously, it needs policies to specifically deal with roadside pollution.

That said, the operators of polluting diesel vehicles are not breaking current transport and environmental rules, since their vehicles are licensed under them. One operator has warned, reasonably enough, that some will be prepared to take legal action to defend their right to continue to earn their livelihoods.

Clearly, there will need to be effective incentives for drivers to upgrade willingly to acceptable standards. Existing subsidies have proven to be inadequate in value and coverage of the city’s 120,000 diesel vehicles.

The government is right to be prudent with such handouts. But in this case it can be confident that the public would see cleaner roadside air – the stuff that we breathe – as good value for a lot of money.


Air Pollution


roadside pollution

old diesel vehicles

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 29th 2012, 4:19am):

Waste disposal plans back on government’s agenda

Contentious landfill issue needs to be dealt with in next five years, environment official says

Saturday, 27 October, 2012, 12:00am

Jolie Ho and Olga Wong

  • ·        1ed7a20f37af035679fe6c286d19fc54.jpg

Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh discusses a landfill problem with Tseung Kwan O residents at Lohas Park Community Hall. Photo: Sam Tsang

Controversial waste disposal plans including landfill expansion look set to return to the city’s agenda, even as residents call for the closure of the Tseung Kwan O rubbish facility.

Undersecretary for the environment Christine Loh Kung-wai yesterday described landfills as a problem left by the previous administration.

“Maybe I am unfortunate; the ‘wok’ [meaning a big mess] has landed in my lap,” Loh said.

“Are there shortcomings in previous [environmental] policies? Maybe yes. The new administration has about five years and we will make a good start [on waste disposal] during this time.”

Loh was responding to criticism from a Tseung Kwan O resident that the government had done a poor job in managing waste in the past 15 years.

Another resident also complained about the landfill. “It is so near our homes,” said Ng Mei-lan, 61, who lives on the 45th floor of a residential block in Wan Po Road, where dozens of rubbish trucks go past every day on their way to the landfill.

“We breathe in not only stinky air, but also toxic elements from construction waste. The ash [in my home] is terrible and my health has deteriorated two years after I moved here.”

The two were among about 100 residents Loh met at the Lohas Park Community Hall after her two-hour visit to the Tseung Kwan O landfill yesterday morning. They called for a complete shutdown of the facility this year.

Loh said it was impossible not to expand the landfill, given the considerable amount of waste generated daily.

The authorities would work on alleviating the problems, including the smell, noise, air pollution and the rubbish trucks. Residents had complained about leaked solid and liquid waste being left on the road, she said.

Loh did not comment on the construction of incinerators as it is subject to judicial review.

“I definitely hear their pain,” she said. “But it’s extremely difficult at this stage to put aside [plans of] landfill expansion and an incinerator … It’s difficult to give up [the two plans]. I personally think we are slow in reducing waste.”

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said waste disposal was a long-standing problem and required public consensus to resolve it.

In April, the Environment Bureau abandoned a HK$23 billion plan to expand landfills in Tseung Kwan O, North District and Tuen Mun, and to build a waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau, off the southern coast of Lantau, as members of the Legislative Council public works subcommittee and Finance Committee withheld their support. Then-environment minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said new plans were needed before landfills became full in 2018.

Incinerator firm slow to tell Metro of failed ash tests


Scrubbers at Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy facility remove metals like cadmium before they go up the stack. But the ash collected was found to exceed provincial limits in July and August.

By Jeff Nagel – Surrey North Delta Leader
Published: October 25, 2012 11:00 AM

Fly ash from Metro Vancouver’s garbage incinerator that tested high in toxic cadmium in July and August has been contained at the Cache Creek landfill.

But Metro officials say they’re still trying to determine why waste-to-energy plant operator Covanta Energy was slow to inform the regional district of the test failures.

About 2,000 tonnes of the fly ash, which is particulate collected from scrubbers that keep toxic metals from going up the stack, was trucked to the Interior landfill.

Provincial regulation requires the ash pass two different tests to ensure it can be safely dumped at a landfill.

Solid waste manager Paul Henderson said there was a range of sample results, but the highest cadmium readings were more than double the provincial limit.

“It wasn’t marginally over the limit, they were substantially over the limit,” he said.

The main test, done at the end of each month, usually comes back with results within three weeks.

But Metro wasn’t informed of both failures until Sept. 26 – about a month later than should have happened for the failed July test results and a day after Cache Creek landfill operatorWastech noticed the results were late and demanded the data.

“We’re working closely with Covanta to understand what happened with regard to those communication issues,” Henderson said. “They’ve told us to date there was human error in the communication.”

Cadmium exists in minute quantities in municipal garbage, from sources such as batteries, dyes and some films and plastics, Henderson said.

Environment ministry officials will decide whether the ash that was trucked to Cache Creek can stay there or has to be taken to a special waste facility.

Subsequent tests on it there found most of the sampled material is within provincial limits.

Every truckload of fly ash produced at the Burnaby incinerator since Sept. 25 has been individually tested and found to be within limits, Henderson said.

But Metro took the added precaution of shipping it to a landfill near Hinton, Alberta until more is known.

Henderson said it didn’t make sense to pile in more new ash at Cache Creek if it’s decided the July and August shipments require special treatment.

He said Metro doesn’t believe the local environment or the Wastech workers at Cache Creek were at risk, but added both Metro and the landfill operator want to ensure no ash is ever delivered again that exceeds limits.

It’s the first time in 12 years incinerator fly ash samples failed testing.

Air emissions from the Metro incinerator have always been within operating limits and are not affected by the fly ash incident, Henderson said.

Covanta Energy said in a statement it believes the summer failures were an “aberration” and the fly ash sent to Cache Creek should not be considered hazardous waste.

The firm said it’s checking its ash-conditioning process to ensure it’s working properly and there are no future problems.

“We deeply regret this event and are working to resolve this lapse in communication,” the statement said. “At no time was information related to this issue purposefully withheld.”

Surrey Coun. Marrvin Hunt, who sits on Metro’s zero waste committee, said fly ash from the initial years of the incinerator’s operation went to the long-closed Coquitlam landfill until approval was gained to send it to Cache Creek.

He said fly ash typically hardens into a cement-like material that should pose no hazard at Cache Creek.

“The greatest concern is the lack of timely reporting,” Hunt said.

Washington State landfill operator Rabanco – which has repeatedly tried to land Metro Vancouver as a customer – said its Roosevelt Regional Landfill has a special cell for incinerator ash and could accept Metro ash shipments by rail, eliminating the need for it to be trucked to Alberta.

World Bank urges end to polluting gas flaring


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



The Guardian

Practice among oil giants contributes as much to climate change as a major economy like Italy

Gas flaring by oil and gas drillers contributes as much to climate change as the entire economy of Italy, according to data released by the World Bank, which called for an end to the practice.

While flaring to burn off excess gas at drill sites has been cut 30 per cent since 2005, US$50 billion worth of gas is still wasted annually, according to the World Bank.

New satellite analysis of the flares that commonly light the night skies in oil fields around the world suggests that bans and fines in some countries and the introduction of technology in newer oil fields has significantly reduced the pollution and waste in some countries but has failed in others.

Excess gas burned off by the flares can be costly or inconvenient to otherwise capture, so some drillers simply burn it off to avoid the risk of explosions.

According to the bank, Azerbaijan has cut flaring 50 per cent in two years and Mexico 66 per cent, while Kuwait now flares only 1 per cent of its excess gas. Other countries, including Qatar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, now use large volumes of previously wasted gas to generate electricity.

The bank’s estimates show that flaring was cut from 172 billion cubic metres a year in 2007 to 142 billion cubic metres last year. But most of the reduction came between 2005-07 and only six of the world’s big 20 oil-producing countries managed to reduce flaring last year. Flaring by those 20 nations produced a greater global warming effect than all output by Italy, the bank said.

The figures show that the momentum to reduce flaring is now levelling off, with only 10 per cent overall cuts achieved by the world’s top 20 emitters since 2007 despite pledges to drastically reduce the practice.

The US, ranked fifth for highest volume in the world’s gas flaring league table, increased the amount it flared by nearly 50 per cent in 2010-11 and has nearly tripled the amount it flares in the past five years, largely because of shale oil developments in places like North Dakota. Russia, by far the greatest flarer, burned off 37.4 billion cubic metres of gas last year, 1.8 billion cubic metres more than the previous year.

The bank urged countries and companies to reduce flaring by at least 30 per cent over the next five years.

“It’s a realistic goal. Given the need for energy in so many countries – one in five people in the world are without electricity – we simply cannot afford to waste this gas any more,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice-president for sustainable development.

“The direction of travel is right but whether it is at the speed or pace needed is another matter. But no country now does not want to wrestle with this issue.”

Oil companies agreed that the waste of the gas that could be used for power was a problem, but said it took time, money and technology, as well as infrastructure developments by host countries, to make cuts.





Gas flaring


Source URL (retrieved on Oct 26th 2012, 5:10am):

Sweden runs out of garbage, forced to import from Norway

Sweden, a recycling-happy land where a quarter of a million homes are powered by the incineration of waste, is facing a unique dilemma: The nation has run out of much-needed fuel.

Thu, Oct 25 2012 at 9:30 AM EST

a recycling center in trash-strapped Sweden

Sweden, birthplace of the SmörgåsbordEric Northman, and the world’s preferred solar-powered purveyor of flat-pack home furnishings, is in a bit of a pickle: the squeaky clean Scandinavian nation of more than 9.5 million has run out of garbage. The landfills have been tapped dry; the rubbish reserves depleted. And although this may seem like a positive — even enviable — predicament for a country to be facing, Sweden has been forced to import trash from neighboring countries, namely Norway. Yep, Sweden is so trash-strapped that officials are shipping it in — 80,000 tons of refuse annually, to be exact — from elsewhere.

You see, Swedes are big on recycling. So big in fact that only 4 percent of all waste generated in the country is landfilled.

Good for them! However, the population’s remarkably pertinacious recycling habits are also a bit of a problem given that the country relies on waste to heat and to provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes through a longstanding waste-to-energy incineration program. So with citizens simply not generating enough burnable waste to power the incinerators, the country has been forced to look elsewhere for fuel. Says Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency: “We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and that is usable for incineration.”

Public Radio International has the whole story (hat tip to Ariel Schwartz at Co.Exist), a story that may seem implausible in a country like garbage-bloated America where overflowing landfills are anything but scarce.

As mentioned, the solution — a short-term one, according to Ostlund — has been to import (well, kind of import) waste from Norway. It’s kind of a great deal for the Swedes: Norway pays Sweden to take its excess waste, Sweden burns it for heat and electricity, and the ashes remaining from the incineration process, filled with highly polluting dioxins, are returned back to Norway and landfilled.

Ostlund suggests that Norway might not be the perfect partner for a trash import-export scheme, however. “I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries,” she tells PRI. “They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste.”

‘I wouldn’t want a waste facility near my home’ says Veolia director—recycling-and-waste-management&contentID=2182

‘I wouldn’t want a waste facility near my home’ says Veolia director

A boss at Veolia has said he would not want to live near one of his firm’s waste incinerators.

Speaking at an industry policy event, the waste giant’s executive director for external affairs, Robert Hunt, said planning for waste facilities was a big issue because nobody wanted one built near them.

“I don’t think I’d want a waste facility near my home, I have to say”, Hunt added.

He said that while “in a democracy everybody’s got to have their say” on planning issues, the time taken to get planning permission made it difficult to attract foreign investment. The infrastructure planning system needed to be faster and more efficient, he added.

Chief operating officer at the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWaRB), Wayne Hubbard, disagreed with Hunt. Hubbard, also speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum event, said the planning system was delivering waste infrastructure.  The regime, he argued, distinguishes between large thermal treatment plants and smaller waste facilities which are less problematic.

“I don’t buy this received wisdom that planning is an issue”, he said, “but planning is definitely an issue for certain types of infrastructure”.

Hubbard said there was a need to focus more on smaller merchant facilities with more flexibility to respond to changes in market requirements.

“It’s okay to have the big waste infrastructure as long as it’s backed up by a load of other stuff that will come from entrepreneurial, smaller waste management companies”, he said.

Campaigner Shlomo Dowen of UK Without Incineration Network slammed Hunt’s comments on planning. He said the firm had a “blind spot” in respecting local residents and Hunt should “stop blaming the people for shortcomings in Veolia’s business model”.

“Growing rejection of incineration is about much more than the planning system”, added Dowen.