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May, 2011:

China to tighten emission rules for commercial vehicles

May 31, 2011, 02.07pm |China Association of Automobile Manufacturers

HONG KONG: China will soon strengthen rules for greenhouse gas emissions from commercial vehicles that run on diesel fuel as part of its commitment to reducing air pollution, an industry group said on Tuesday.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said a stricter emission regulation will be imposed on diesel vehicles smaller than 3.5 tons, starting July 1. After the new standard goes into effect, the traffic authorities will not accept applications for sales or registration of vehicles that fail to meet the requirement.

The tougher standard, which is on par with emission standards in Europe, limits carbon monoxide emissions to a maximum of 0.74 grams per kilometer for light commercial vehicles.

Health alert as HK pollution worsens

04:46 AM May 30, 2011HONG KONG – The city’s air pollution reached “very
high” levels at all three of its roadside-monitoring stations for the fourth
straight day, prompting the government to issue a health alert.

The Air Pollution Index was 179 in Central, 186 in Mong Kok and 171 in
Causeway Bay as of 12pm local time, and nitrogen dioxide was the major
pollutant, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) said on its website

The roadside pollution level has exceeded 100 since Thursday, triggering a
government warning for people with heart or lung diseases to avoid prolonged
stays in heavy-traffic areas.

The city plans to ban idling engines to reduce vehicle emissions from as
early as September. Drivers will be fined HK$320 (S$51) should they idle
engines for more than three minutes, according to the Bill passed on March

Earlier in the month, the government was told to release a timetable for new
air quality rules amid rising criticism of pollution in the city of seven

Chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen promised to release the new rules by
this year, nearly a quarter of a century since the last figures were set.

The EPD is still in the midst of coming up with new levels although a public
consultation on the issue was completed more than 18 months ago. New air
quality standards in line with the WHO recommendations were presented to the
Legislative Council last summer.

“We need to study carefully the impact of the new objectives on the economy
and community before we can work out something that can remain (practical)
in the long run.” Mr Tsang said, as reported by the Clean Air Network
Limited, an independent NGO that calls for action to clean the air.

A survey last year by public policy think-tank Civic Exchange found that
one-quarter of residents would like to leave Hong Kong to escape its

Air pollution has been linked to 4,800 additional deaths from 2007 to last
year, which is hurting the city’s ability to lure talent, according to the
General Chamber of Commerce.

The daily average pollution level in Central, the city’s central business
district, posted as “very high” for 86 days last year, up from the 44 days
in 2009.

Last year, health experts had estimated poor air cost the city HK$1.18
billion in healthcare bills and lost productivity, along with 3.8 million
visits to the doctor. Agencies

LCQ19: Air quality

Hong Kong, May. 25 — Hong Kong SAR Government issued the following news release:

Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek Lai-him and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (May 25):


It has been reported that Friends of the Earth had analysed the Air Pollution Indexes (API) at 11 general stations set up by the Environmental Protection Department over the 13-month period from January 2010 and found that Sham Shui Po had the worst air quality, with an average API of 44.58, followed by Kwai Chung (43.28) and Kwun Tong (43.08); and that the poor air quality in these areas could be due to a higher number of old diesel vehicles running on the roads, compared to other areas. However, the yearly average API readings of these general stations were within the medium range of air pollution level by the Government’s standard, meaning that air quality was acceptable. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that roadside stations are set up in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok, whether it will consider setting up roadside stations also in Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong; if it will, of the details with regard to the increase in the estimated expenditure; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether it has assessed if the current API standard in Hong Kong meets the World Health Organization (WHO)’s air quality guideline standard; if the API does not meet the WHO standard, whether it has considered tightening the API system to keep it up to par accordingly; if not, of the reasons for that;

(c) as it was reported that there were months during the aforesaid 13-month period in which APIs of Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong exceeded 50, and that it is harmful for people to breathe the air with that API level for long, whether it had implemented any measure in the past three years to improve the air quality in the aforesaid areas; if it had, of the details; and

(d) given that three pilot low-emission zones (LEZs) will be designated in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok;

(i) whether it has considered extending the pilot LEZs to Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong; if it has, whether it will conduct public consultation; if it will, of the timetable; if it has not considered extending the pilot LEZs, the reasons for that;

(ii) whether it will consider issuing a guideline on the suggested ratio of low-emission franchised buses running in these areas; if it will, of the details; and

(iii) of the current progress of the retirement of Euro II and III franchised buses operating in these areas; and whether it has considered providing any financial incentive to the franchised bus companies for the related increase in operation expenses; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) Siting of the roadside air quality monitoring stations (AQMSs) in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok has been made to measure the roadside situations in busy urbanised areas of Hong Kong. These three AQMSs are surrounded by a mix of commercial buildings and commercial-cum-residential buildings in the presence of heavy traffic. Such physical environment typifies the air quality in other busy urbanised areas like Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong. As such, we consider that the air quality data collected by these roadside stations are representative of the roadside air quality of busy urbanised areas in other parts of the territory and do not propose to set up additional roadside AQMSs;

(b) The World Health Organization has not issued any standards and guidelines on the calculation and reporting of API values and internationally, there is also no standardised approach on the issue. Our API system is in general similar to those of Singapore and Taipei. It calculates API by making reference to the current Hong Kong Air Quality Objectives (AQOs). In parallel to our current exercise to examine how best the AQOs should be updated, we have already commissioned a team of leading academics including health experts and air scientists from the local universities to review our API system for providing more timely information to the public on the level of air pollution and the associated health effects;

(c) In Hong Kong, air pollution in different districts is caused by common air pollutant emission sources such as power plants, vehicles, etc. Cutting these local emissions, coupled with the joint efforts with the Guangdong Provincial Government to reduce emissions from the Pearl River Delta region, will help improve air quality in all districts including Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong. We implemented the following key measures in the past three years to reduce local emissions –

i. imposed statutory emission caps on power plants since August 2005. The caps have recently been tightened to require power plants to further reduce their emissions by 34-50%, starting from 2015, as compared with the 2010 levels through maximising the use of existing gas-fired generation units and prioritising the use of coal-fired units retrofitted with emission abatement facilities;

ii. introduced on July 1, 2010 a 36-month one-off grant to encourage the early replacement of Euro II diesel commercial vehicles with new commercial vehicles after completing on March 31, 2010 a similar scheme for pre-Euro and Euro I diesel commercial vehicles;

iii. introduced in April 2008 a first registration tax concession scheme for environment-friendly commercial vehicles in addition to the one for environment-friendly petrol private cars;

iv. mandated motor vehicle fuels to comply with Euro V standard from July 1, 2010;

v. mandated the use of ultra low sulphur diesel in industrial and commercial processes from October 2008; and

vi. amended the Air Pollution Control (Volatile Organic Compounds) Regulation in October 2009 to include products such as adhesives, sealants, vehicle refinishing paints, marine vessel paints and pleasure craft paints, to limit their VOC contents in phases from January 2010;

The above measures, together with on-going air quality improvement measures and those implemented in the Pearl River Delta region by the Guangdong Provincial Government, have brought improvements to our air quality in recent years. Between 2008 and 2010, the levels of sulphur dioxide and respirable suspended particulates in Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong reduced by 31% and 8% respectively.

(d) (i)&(ii) The pilot LEZs to be designated in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok seek to restrict the access of franchised buses to low-emission models (i.e. those meeting the emission level of a Euro IV or above bus). We are working with the franchised bus companies to increase as far as practicable the ratio of low-emission buses running in these zones from 2011, with the target of having only low-emission buses in these zones by 2015.

To meet the above target, the franchised bus companies will accord priority to the deployment of low-emission buses to routes serving the pilot LEZs. They are also working with us to undertake a trial of retrofitting on their Euro II and III buses selective catalytic reduction devices (SCRs) which, together with the diesel particulate filters already installed on the buses, could upgrade their emission performance to the Euro IV level. Subject to satisfactory trial results, the Government will fund the full cost of retrofitting all Euro II and Euro III buses with SCR devices.

As many of the franchised buses serving the pilot LEZs will also pass through other districts such as Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung and Kwun Tong, these districts will also benefit from the designation of the pilot LEZs. Should the trial on SCR retrofit be successful, we expect the majority of the franchised bus fleet would be upgraded to Euro IV level by 2015.

(d) (iii) Franchised bus companies are required to operate their franchised bus services with buses under the age of 18, and have been replacing their serving buses accordingly. This arrangement has taken account of the maintenance, operational and financial capability of the bus operators, and their obligation to provide a proper and efficient service to the public.

Currently, about 70% of franchised buses are Euro II or Euro III vehicles. Given their large numbers, it would be difficult to phase them out in the coming few years. The Government is looking into other options which are more cost-effective than expediting their replacement to reduce emissions from franchised buses. That is why we are working jointly with the franchised bus companies to undertake a trial to retrofit SCRs on Euro II and III franchised buses. As stated above, subject to satisfactory trial results, the Government will fund the full cost of retrofitting Euro II and Euro III buses with SCRs to bring their emission performance on a par with Euro IV level.

Source: Hong Kong SAR Government


KMB facing loss from fuel costs

South China Morning Post 21st May 2011

Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) could soon apply for another fare increase. Its management is warning that, for the first time in a decade, it could make a loss.

Hong Kong’s largest bus operator – whose profit contribution to holding company Transport International Holdings (SEHK: 0062) has shrunk over the years – raised its fares by an average of 3.6 per cent on Sunday.

But the group’s managing director, Edmond Ho Tat-man, said the HK$200 million a year the fare increase would generate would not fully cover its fuel costs, which are expected to increase by HK$500 million this year.

“We are not making enough to cover our expenses. If oil prices don’t fall, we will be in the red this year,” Ho said.

KMB’s listed flagship Transport International, which makes money from leasing and selling property at its former depots and operating local coach services and public transport in Shenzhen and Beijing, reported a net profit of HK$866 million last year, nearly 30 per cent above that of 2009.

More than half the profit came from sales and interest earnings from property projects in Lai Chi Kok, including offices, shopping malls and luxury apartment block the Manhattan Hill. Excluding two one-off gains, its franchised bus operation accounted for just HK$243.3 million of its profits, down 38.4 per cent from 2009.

The company blamed that drop in profit on fuel costs, which were HK$1.14 billion last year and made up nearly a fifth of KMB’s expenses. The price of the near-zero-sulphur diesel the company uses jumped from US$86 per barrel in July – when KMB sparked a public outcry by proposing average fare rises of 8.6 per cent – to US$138 per barrel last month.

Ho said 60 per cent of KMB’s 380 routes were losing money – an all-time high. “Most of these routes overlap with rail lines and are seriously underused. Some trips, even at peak periods, carry less than 15 passengers but our proposals to trim or remove them are always opposed by district councillors.”

Route restructuring can only get tougher in the next two years, with elections being held for district councils and the legislature. Councillors will be particularly reluctant to agree to reduce public services. Last year councillors rejected seven of KMB’s 16 applications to trim routes; just nine of its 3,800-strong bus fleet were taken off the road as a result.

KMB hopes to import at least 10 supercapacitor buses – an electric model that recharges via an overhead cable at bus stops – by the end of next year. Deputy managing director Evan Auyang said it hopes the technology will be mature enough by then for KMB to adopt it rather than buying diesel-powered buses that meet the European Union’s new Euro IV emission standards.

The group’s shares closed up 0.87 per cent at HK$23.20. Auyang said the market was worried Euro VI buses could use more fuel than Euro V models since they will require extra power to reduce emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide.

Tsang promises new pollution rules this year

South China Morning Post

Chief executive denies there is a delay in updating quarter-of-a-century-old levels in order to protect massive government infrastructure projects

Ng Kang-chung and Cheung Chi-fai
Updated on May 20, 2011
Hong Kong will have new air quality objectives ready this year, the chief executive has pledged – nearly a quarter of a century since the last figures were set.

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen made the promise after being accused by Civic Party legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee of dragging his feet for fear new regulations could hold up an array of massive government infrastructure projects.

Tsang insisted the government was serious about setting new objectives adopting interim and ultimate targets for the levels of various pollutants listed in World Health Organisation guidelines.

“We need to study carefully the impact of the new objectives on the economy and community before we can work out something that can remain [practical] in the long run,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Department has yet to come up with new levels although a public consultation on the issue was completed more than 18 months ago, and new air quality standards in line with the WHO recommendations were presented to the Legislative Council last summer.

Hong Kong’s air pollution index, which measures the concentrations of five major pollutants, is based on a set of air quality objectives from 1987 that are widely criticised by environmentalists as being outdated and too lax.

According to the results of a review, the WHO objectives are 10 to 64 per cent more stringent than existing ones.

Tsang said it took time to study overseas experience in adopting the new standards recommended by the WHO.

The government has said that at least seven, and as many as 70, projects are already in doubt after a court quashed the environmental impact assessment for part of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge.

Tsang’s pledge came as Hong Kong scientists yesterday launched a new air quality monitoring “super-site” that uses state-of-the-art instruments and comprehensive measurements to monitor pollution.

The station at the University of Science and Technology campus at Clear Water Bay, Sai Kung, was officially opened yesterday.

It marks the beginning of a network with the air quality monitoring site operated by Polytechnic University in Cape D’Aguilar.

Another site is to open in Tung Chung, and Guangdong has also started construction of a super-site in Heshan, south-west of Foshan.

Scientists said the 1,000 square foot Sai Kung station could offer continuous real-time measurements and observations of the physical and chemical properties of air pollutants.

They said it was an ideal place to study background air quality and movement of pollutants into Hong Kong.

Atmospheric scientist Alexis Lau Kai-hon said the system should outperform the existing network run by the Environmental Protection Department, which could tell the weight of an air pollutant but offered no quick answer as to what it was.

“For instance, when we see the sky getting grey, we can’t really tell whether this is sand, dust or fog.

“But if we can find out immediately that the particles are actually an earth metal, then we can tell it could be sand,” he said.

Lau said knowing the composition would make it easier to determine where the pollutants originated and how they could affect people.

A spokeswoman for the EPD said the department had upgraded its facilities to make “complementary measurements” and stressed it was also a partner of the super-site project. The project, which is costing at least HK$17 million, was funded by the University Grants Committee, the university itself and the government’s Environment and Conservation Fund.

Watchdog upholds air quality complaint

South China Morning Post — 8 May 2011

The Ombudsman has upheld a landmark complaint from an environmental group which accused the Hong Kong government of dragging its heels over setting new air quality standards.

After a five-month investigation, the watchdog – which has become increasingly vocal in its criticism of officialdom – said the government should set out a timetable for new air quality objectives to give the public a clear picture of progress.

Yesterday, Friends of the Earth, which lodged the complaint with the government watchdog in November, welcomed the decision but expressed frustration that the Ombudsman had not found officials guilty of maladministration.

The green group’s senior environmental affairs officer, Thomas Choi Ka-man, said they received a letter on Friday from the watchdog confirming their complaint had been upheld. Choi said his organisation was pleased but added: “We are disappointed as the department’s delay is not considered maladministration.”

Last night the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) said it welcomed the Ombudsman’s report but added that it was already reporting progress on the matter to the Legislative Council every six months.

“We welcome the reply of the Ombudsman regarding the complaint about the Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) Review. We are also working closely with the concerned bureaux and departments and other stakeholders with a view to drawing up a practicable timetable.”

The department also said the proposed air quality improvement measures covered a wide range of issues and cut across a number of often complicated policy areas. “The government needs to analyse in detail the different views collected and assess their impacts on the relevant policies in order to fully consider and co-ordinate the implementation of the recommended measures. We are pleased to note that the Ombudsman accepts that the government would need more time to achieve consensus within the community.”

According to Friends of the Earth, the Ombudsman’s letter said: “To improve air quality, the department should not only focus on amending the objectives alone without complementary measures. From an overall prospective, the situation has not constituted maladministration.

“However, there are increasing public expectations for better air quality following the public consultation. Our office [Ombudsman’s office] believes that even though the department may have encountered difficulties in setting new air quality objectives and in carrying out measures, it still needs to set out a timetable and explain to the public the progress and difficulties.

“It [the department] should put in place the new air quality objectives as early as possible,” the letter said.

The Ombudsman’s office refused to comment on its letter to Friends of the Earth.

In January, the Ombudsman pledged to investigate why the government had yet to set new air quality objectives even though it had conducted a review of air standards three years ago and invited public comment last year.

The government commissioned a consultant to review the objectives in 2007. It came up with a public consultation document that proposed a new set of standards recommended by the World Health Organisation.

But a year after people gave their views on the public consultation document in November 2009, officials are still not saying when new objectives will be introduced. The delay has added to doubts about the government’s determination to improve air quality, which has worsened year after year at street level.

A question of quality – The HK Macau Zhuhai Bridge

South China Morning Post — 5 May 2011

The recent court ruling quashing the approval of the environmental impact assessment of two Hong Kong sections of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will not just delay the start of construction of this project. It may also hold up the environmental approvals for the Environmental Protection Department’s planned waste incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau.

The air quality impact assessments of the delta bridge project and the incinerator cover overlapping areas of North Lantau close to the airport and Tung Chung. One of the objectives of the assessments is to forecast the cumulative impact of these projects on air quality in the area. Since the approval for the delta bridge project has now been quashed, we need new environmental assessments to tell us how much pollution the delta bridge project will contribute.

Let us hope that some of the dubious assumptions underpinning the bridge study will be corrected. For example, the previous study assumed that emissions from road traffic in North Lantau will double from 2016 to 2031. Yet, the incinerator study assumes that such emissions will fall by half over virtually the same 15-year period.

Both studies assume there will be no expansion of capacity at Hong Kong International Airport – a major source of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions – after it reaches its current operating capacity in 2020. This implies there will be no third runway at Chek Lap Kok, a questionable assumption.

When it comes to preparing environmental reports, there seems to be little disincentive for making up assumptions. The law makes those who offer shares to the public liable for damages if the prospectus contains false or misleading statements. But such liability does not apply in environmental studies; people whose health may have suffered as a result of a study’s wrong assumptions will have great difficulty suing those responsible for issuing the report.

The time to challenge questionable assumptions in these reports is during the statutory consultation period, so the project proponent can either substantiate them or correct them before the reports are approved.

Many important assumptions that underpin air quality assessments are buried in the input files for the computer models used to carry out studies. In the delta bridge case, the applicant said there was not enough information about the assumptions fed into the computer model that simulated the dispersion of air pollutants across the region. The judge decided that these concerns should have been raised during the public consultation and it was too late to raise them in a judicial review.

The applicant also questioned whether the model was even capable of making reliable forecasts of future air quality, given that the projected regional emission sources may not be accurate. The judge said that issue also had been raised too late.

Legal challenges to environmental assessment reports, which up until now have been rare, are becoming more likely. The Environmental Protection Department has allowed air quality to deteriorate so far that almost any major new infrastructure project will cause further breaches of Hong Kong’s air quality objectives. Ozone and nitrogen dioxide concentrations are already well over the legal limits and are getting worse.

Hong Kong’s air quality bucket is already full to overflowing and the government urgently needs to take action to remove as much avoidable pollution from the bucket as it can to make room for new projects. No one is buying the argument there is still room in the bucket for another project, and there is growing public pressure on the government to reduce the size of the bucket by tightening the air quality standards.

The solution is clear. The government should start implementing some of the measures to improve air quality that it proposed in the environmental department’s 2009 consultation paper on air quality benchmarks.

There has been much speculation about the motives of those who helped Chu Yee-wah with her case against the department. As one of those people, I am happy to confirm that this case was all about protecting the environment. May I ask instead, who are the individuals preventing the department from implementing the measures it proposed in 2009 to improve air quality? It seems that they are the ones holding up the government’s infrastructure projects.

David Renton is a partner at Baker Botts law firm and was a member of the legal team that advised the successful applicant in the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge case

Top court appeal over mega bridge

HK Standard — 5 May 2011

The government is to appeal against a court ruling that quashed the environmental permit for the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macau bridge in a move that may further delay construction.

The action will be taken in the Court of Final Appeal this week on the grounds it is not mandatory under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance for the government to assess air quality without the project in place, a source said.

The source said the authorities are also preparing to counter the High Court’s claim that the assessment report is “substandard” and that the government needs to reassess the environmental impact of proposed boundary-crossing facilities.

Last month, Chu Yee-wah, a 65-year-old Tung Chung resident who is in poor health, successfully argued the Environmental Protection Department had failed to conduct the necessary assessments before granting permits for the construction of the mega bridge, which passes close to her residence.

Chu’s lawyer, Alan Wong Hok-ming, said yesterday the legal battle could drag on for six months or more.

Work on the Hong Kong section of the bridge was scheduled to begin late last year and be completed in 2016, but work has not yet started because of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the earlier High Court ruling has had a knock-on effect, with the MTR Corp withdrawing impact assessment reports for its Sha Tin-Central rail link.

A transport advisory body had raised concerns over the progress of the 17-kilometer line.

Transport Advisory Committee chairman Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said if many changes are needed, the railway operator may postpone the public consultation exercise scheduled to end early next year.