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September 18th, 2013:

Official inaction on effluent leak riles lawmakers

Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

Lack of answers and late disclosure follow discharge of pollutants into irrigation water

Environment officials have come under fire for not launching their own probe into the cause of an effluent leak from the Ta Kwu Ling landfill, as lawmakers vowed they would continue to seek the truth about what officials described as an accident. than 50 days after the leak, officials were still unable to determine how a 0.9 square metre hole was torn in the impermeable layer of a temporary effluent lagoon at the dump.

At a special meeting of the Legislative Council environment affairs panel yesterday, officials said the dump’s operator, which faces prosecution for water pollution, was obliged to submit a report on the incident by the end of this month.

“It is like a probe by someone who is the target of a probe. How could you guarantee the probe’s result is trustworthy? Why doesn’t the government launch its own investigation?” asked Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah.

The leak was first spotted on July 27 but made public only on August 28. An unknown volume of polluted water ran into the Kong Yiu channel, from which some farmers had been drawing irrigation water.

It also emerged yesterday that two more water samples, taken on August 30 and September 2, contained pollutants exceeding legal limits, in addition to a sample taken on August 7.

Officials said the pollutants were residue from a previous leak rather than a new one.

Democrat lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan vowed to seek the truth about the leak and urged officials to launch their own probe.

“The leakage was either [a result of] professional negligence or something beyond professional knowledge. In either case it is a worry to the public,” she said.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said there was an established process for an investigation under the contract with the operator, but he did not say why the government could not launch a parallel probe.

“We will take a serious look into the cause,” he said, adding that an independent consultant would be engaged to review the contractor’s report.

Wong reiterated that the leak was just an “accident”, and that the Environmental Protection Department closely monitored the contractor’s performance.

Legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung queried why it took so long to disclose the leak and whether the dump had the capacity to handle torrential rains.

Christine Loh Kung-wai, undersecretary for the environment, said the bureau would not object to making future leaks public immediately but needed time to look into how to do it.

Dr Ellen Chan Ying-lung, assistant director of environmental protection, said officials had already asked the contractor if the lagoon could be covered. They would also study whether the impermeable layer of the lagoon bottom could be doubled.

Panel chairwoman Cyd Ho Sau-lan said she would hold another meeting on the issue when the contractor’s report was out.

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 18th 2013, 6:16am):

HK$10b scheme to dump dirty trucks beefed up

Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

Subsidies to owners of polluting diesel vehicles may be raised to 40pc of cost of replacement

The government has hammered out a revised HK$10 billion-plus scheme with beefed-up subsidies to get fleet operators to phase out pre-Euro IV commercial diesel vehicles. scheme will be tabled to the legislature for discussion on October 2.

Transport sources said the Environment Bureau would increase not just the amount of subsidies given to the operators but also improve how the subsidies were granted.

They said that under the revised scheme there would no longer be a distinction between operators who wanted to scrap their vehicles and those who wanted to replace them.

Both are expected to get the same subsidy, depending on the emissions standards of their vehicles.

The maximum subsidy also might be increased from 30 per cent to up to 40 per cent of the vehicle’s replacement cost.

But questions have been raised in the trade as to whether the government might have to seek extra funding from the legislature to implement the revised plan.

At least one person familiar with the situation said extra funds would be needed, but not a significant amount. He said the top-up required might be around 10 per cent.

Another concern was whether the bureau would extend the timetable for phasing out the vehicles in three phases.

It is understood the bureau might postpone the deadlines by one year to 2017, 2018 and 2020.

Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai has said the plan for the multibillion-dollar scheme has been finalised, but she did not reveal details.

The scheme, described by Loh as the “biggest of its kind in the world”, aims to phase out more than 80,000 commercial diesel vehicles, excluding franchised buses, in three stages, depending on their emissions standards.

Operators of old vehicles whose emissions are regarded by World Health Organisation as carcinogenic will not be allowed to renew their licences once the deadlines pass.

Since the scheme was announced, some in the trade have questioned whether the proposed incentives are adequate and fair. Some operators said the scheme was unattractive as they could not afford to buy a new vehicle, even with the subsidy.

Leung Kun-kuen, of the Kowloon Truck Merchants Association, said that from what he had heard about the revised scheme, the association would “cautiously accept” it.

“There is still uncertainty as to when the scheme will be implemented, as manufacturers have found it difficult to adjust to fluctuations in demand for new vehicles,” he said.

Yuen Cheung-fung, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said individual operators were concerned whether they could continue to make a living. He said the revised scheme could partly address their concerns.

Scientists say planet is warming at half the forecast rate

Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 12:00am



Howard Winn

We see that recent leaks of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report due to be published later this month show that the planet has been heating up at half the rate claimed by scientists in the 2007 IPCC report.

In that report, scientists said the planet had been warming at 0.2 degrees Celsius every decade. But the new report states the rate has only been 0.12 degrees since 1951.

This is a marked departure from the apocalyptic scenarios that were forecast in earlier reports. It also has implications for policymakers that have spent billions in trying to mitigate this perceived problem.

In another striking departure, the report acknowledges that large areas of the planet were as warm between the period 950 and 1250 as they are now, despite the much lower levels of man-made carbon dioxide.

One of the central arguments of previous IPCC reports has been that man’s production of carbon dioxide has contributed to half of the planet’s global warming, with the rest coming from natural occurrences such as the change in sun spot activity and ocean warming cycles.

Another difficulty has been that while a quarter of the volume produced by human activity since 1750 had occurred in the past 10 years, the planet’s temperature has not risen in the past 17 years. Indeed, the new report says “models do not generally reproduce the observed reduction in the surface warming trend over the last 10 to 15 years”.

The IPCC has also scaled down its estimate for the rise in sea level by the end of the century from the somewhat scary one to two metres to 40 to 62 centimetres. The worry is that if climate models exaggerate global warming for past decades, what sort of guide are they for the future.

A recent Nature Climate Change study shows the main climate models have overestimated the rise in temperature of the past 15 years by more than 300 per cent.

Despite all this, the IPCC report will claim that scientists are now 95 per cent certain that humans caused more than half of the global rise in temperature since 1950, an increase from 90 per cent in the 2007 report.

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 18th 2013, 5:53am):