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December, 2012:

Environmental watchdog needs to rebuild trust

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Approval assured

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EIA reports HKG

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E.P.A. Proposes Tighter Soot Rule

E.P.A. Proposes Tighter Soot Rule


Published: December 14, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency will announce a new standard for soot pollution on Friday, forcing industry, utilities and local governments to find ways to reduce emissions of particles linked to thousands of cases of disease and death each year, government officials said.

The agency, acting under a court deadline, is proposing a standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air, a significant tightening from the previous standard 15 micrograms, set in 1997, which a federal court found too weak to adequately protect public health. The new standard is in the middle of the range of 11 to 13 micrograms per cubic meter that the E.P.A.’s science advisory panel recommended.

Communities must meet the new standard by 2020 or face possible federal fines.

The E.P.A. based its action on health studies that found exposure to fine particles — in this case measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter — brought a marked increase in heart and lung disease, acute asthma attacks and early death. Older people, adults with heart and lung conditions and children are particularly susceptible to the ill effects of breathing in soot particles.

The agency estimates the net benefit of the new rule at $2.3 billion to $5.9 billion a year.

Today 66 counties in 8 states do not meet the new standard, but the E.P.A. estimates that by 2020, when the rule is fully in force, only 7 counties, all of them in California, will still be out of compliance. Other rules already in effect governing mercury, sulfur and other pollution from vehicles, factories and power plants will bring about that reduction.

“We know clearly that particle pollution is harmful at levels well below those previously deemed to be safe,” Dr. Norman H. Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, said in a statement. “By setting a more protective standard, the E.P.A. is stating that we as a nation must protect the health of the public by cleaning up even more of this lethal pollutant.”

“It will save lives,” he said.

Utility industry officials pleaded with the E.P.A. on Thursday to delay the release of the new rule, arguing that the standard is based on incomplete science and would impose costly new burdens on states and cities.

Utilities, joined by trade associations representing manufacturers, chemical companies and the oil and gas industry, said the new rule would push many communities into noncompliance, making it more difficult to obtain permits for new businesses that create jobs.

Scott H. Segal, representing a coalition of coal companies and utilities, wrote to Lisa P. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, urging her to pull back the proposed rule. He cited a 2011 study saying that citing counties for noncompliance “increases energy prices, reduces manufacturing productivity and causes local manufacturing companies to exit the areas that are designated as being in nonattainment.”

Advocates of the new rule said the industry complaints were overblown.

“While the health benefits are extensive, opponents of common-sense pollution standards are repeating false time-worn claims that clean air is too costly,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund.

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EPA Announces Next Round of Clean Air Standards to Reduce Harmful Soot Pollution

Release Date: 12/14/2012
Contact Information: Enesta Jones (News Media Only),, 202-564-7873, 202-564-4355 Shakeba Carter-Jenkins (Non-Media Inquiries),, 202-564-6385 CONTACTO EN ESPAÑOL: Lina Younes, 202-564-9924, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – In response to a court order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized an update to its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5), including soot, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. By 2020, ninety-nine percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet revised health standard without any additional actions 

Today’s announcement has no effect on the existing daily standard for fine particles or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10), which includes dust from farms and other sources), both of which remain unchanged.

“These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

Fine particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children. A federal court ruling required EPA to update the standard based on best available science. Today’s announcement, which meets that requirement, builds on smart steps already taken by EPA to slash dangerous pollution in communities across the country. Thanks to these steps, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the standard without any additional action.

It is expected that fewer than 10 counties, out of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States, will need to consider any local actions to reduce fine particle pollution in order to meet the new standard by 2020, as required by the Clean Air Act. The rest can rely on air quality improvements from federal rules already on the books to meet this new standard.

More on the 2020 Map:

The standard, which was proposed in June and is consistent with the advice from the agency’s independent science advisors, is based on an extensive body of scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies – including many large studies which show negative health impacts at lower levels than previously understood. It also follows extensive consultation with stakeholders, including the public, health organizations, and industry, and after considering more than 230,000 public comments.

By 2030, it is expected that all standards that cut PM2.5 from diesel vehicles and equipment alone will prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths, 32,000 hospital admissions and 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness.

Because reductions in fine particle pollution have direct health benefits including decreased mortality rates, fewer incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and childhood asthma, the PM2.5 standards announced today have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. EPA estimates health benefits of the revised standard to range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year, with estimated costs of implementation ranging from $53 million to $350 million. While EPA cannot consider costs in selecting a standard under the Clean Air Act, those costs are estimated as part of the careful analysis undertaken for all significant regulations, as required by Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama in January 2011.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its air quality standards every five years to determine whether the standards should be revised. The law requires the agency to ensure the standards are “requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety” and “requisite to protect the public welfare.” A federal court required EPA to issue final standard by December 14, because the agency did not meet its five-year legal deadline for reviewing the standards. 

EPA carefully considered extensive public input as it determined the appropriate final standard to protect public health. The agency held two public hearings and received more than 230,000 written comments before finalizing today’s updated air quality standards.

More information:

Administrator’s video:

Landmark climate change report leaked online

Draft of IPCC’s fifth assessment, due to be published in September 2013, leaked online by climate sceptic Alex Rawls

The BoA 2&3 coal-burning power plant, which began operation in Aug 2012 near Grevenbroich, Germany

The BoA coal-burning power plant, which went into operation in August 2012 near Grevenbroich, Germany. Photograph: Juergen Schwarz/Getty Images

The draft of a major global warming report by the UN’s climate science panel has been leaked online.

The fifth assessment report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is not due to be published in full until September 2013, was uploaded onto a website called Stop Green Suicide on Thursday and has since been mirrored elsewhere on the internet. Several scientists who helped to write the report have confirmed that the draft is genuine.

The IPCC said in a statement: “The IPCC regrets this unauthorized posting which interferes with the process of assessment and review. We will continue not to comment on the contents of draft reports, as they are works in progress.”

A little-known US-based climate sceptic called Alex Rawls, who had been accepted by the IPCC to be one of the report’s 800 expert reviewers, admitted to leaking the document. In a statement posted online, he sought to justify the leak: “The addition of one single sentence [discussing the influence of cosmic rays on the earth’s climate] demands the release of the whole. That sentence is an astounding bit of honesty, a killing admission that completely undercuts the main premise and the main conclusion of the full report, revealing the fundamental dishonesty of the whole.”

Climate sceptics have heralded the sentence – which they interpret as meaning that cosmic rays could have a greater warming influence on the planet than mankind’s emissions – as “game-changing”.

The isolation by climate sceptics of one sentence in the 14-chapter draft report was described as “completely ridiculous” by one of the report’s lead authors. Prof Steve Sherwood, a director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, told ABC Radio in Australia: “You could go and read those paragraphs yourself and the summary of it and see that we conclude exactly the opposite, that this cosmic ray effect that the paragraph is discussing appears to be negligible … It’s a pretty severe case of [cherry-picking], because even the sentence doesn’t say what [climate sceptics] say and certainly if you look at the context, we’re really saying the opposite.”

The leaked draft “summary for policymakers” contains a statement that appears to contradict the climate sceptics’ interpretation.

It says: “There is consistent evidence from observations of a net energy uptake of the earth system due to an imbalance in the energy budget. It is virtually certain that this is caused by human activities, primarily by the increase in CO2 concentrations. There is very high confidence that natural forcing contributes only a small fraction to this imbalance.”

By “virtually certain”, the scientists say they mean they are now 99% sure that man’s emissions are responsible. By comparison, in the IPCC’s last report, published in 2007, the scientists said they had a “very high confidence” – 90% sure – humans were principally responsible for causing the planet to warm.

Richard Betts, a climate scientist at the Met Office Hadley Centre and an AR5 lead author, tweeted that the report is still a draft and could well change: “Worth pointing out that the wording in the leaked IPCC WG1 [working group 1, which examines the “physical science basis” of climate change] draft chapters may still change in the final versions, following review comments.”

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said that Rawls appeared to have broken the confidentiality agreement signed by reviewers: “As a registered reviewer of the IPCC report, I condemn the decision by a climate change sceptic to violate the confidentiality of the review process. The review of the IPCC report is being carried out in line with the principles of peer review which operate throughout academic science, including an expectation of high standards of ethical behaviour by reviewers. It is disappointing, if not surprising, that climate change sceptics have been unable to meet these high standards of ethical behaviour.”

The IPCC, which publishes a detailed synthesis of the latest climate science every seven years to help guide policy makers, has experienced leaks before. In 2000, the third assessment report was leaked to the New York Times.

Prof Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at University College London and contributing author on the recent IPCC report on climate change and extreme events, said that sceptics’ reading of the draft was incorrect: “Alex Rawls’ interpretation of what IPCC5 says is quite simply wrong. In fact, while temperatures have been ramping up in recent decades, solar activity has been pretty subdued, so any interaction with cosmic rays is clearly having minimal – if any – effects. IPCC AR5 reiterates what we can be absolutely certain of: that contemporary climate change is not a natural process, but the consequence of human activities.”

Prof Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change at the University of Leeds, said: “Although this may seem like a ‘leak’, the draft IPCC reports are not kept secret and the review process is open. The rationale in not disseminating the findings until the final version is complete, is to try and iron out all the errors and inconsistencies which might be inadvertently included. Personally, I would be happy if the whole IPCC process were even more open and public, and I think we as scientists need to explore how we can best match the development of measured critical arguments with those of the Twitter generation.”

The IPCC, which was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize with Al Gore in 2007, has yet to comment on the latest leak, other than confirming it will release a statement later today

Trashed Film Environmental Documentary Feature Film Cannes Film Festival Blenheim Films with Jeremy Irons

  • Jeremy Irons:
  • ‘We’ve made this movie because there are so many people who feel strongly the urgent need for the problem of ‘waste’ and ‘sustainability’ to be addressed. There is an equally urgent need for the most imaginative and productive solutions to this troublesome subject to be understood and shared by as many communities as possible throughout the world.

This is where movies can play such an important role, educating society, bringing ‘difficult’ subjects to the broadest possible audience.’

Trashed Film Poster

Lights Off Lights On

Academy Award winning actor Jeremy Irons is no stranger to taking centre stage. But his next role, in a documentary highlighting solutions to the pressing environmental problems facing us all, could well be his most important yet.

We’ve made this movie because there are so many people who feel strongly the urgent need for the problem of ‘waste’ and ‘sustainability’ to be addressed. There is an equally urgent need for the most imaginative and productive solutions to this troublesome subject to be understood and shared by as many communities as possible throughout the world.

This is where movies can play such an important role, educating society, bringing ‘difficult’ subjects to the broadest possible audience.

Read more…


This film had to be made for so many reasons. My own reasons are as complicated as the issue of waste itself and range from spending much of my childhood ill in bed with asthma to, as a mother, worrying about the effect our toxic legacy is having on our children.

But it was researching the work of some extraordinary people who have been dealing with the issue of waste for years that finally compelled me to make this film, come what may; Professor Paul Connett, Captain Charles Moore, Professor Ana Soto…

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I have always been interested in environmental issues, the natural life and the cultural environment. It’s not the first time that I’ve been involved in similar matters. The subject of the documentary, which deals with the serious problem of the sustainability of our planet attracted my attention immediately. The involvement of my friend Jeremy Irons, made my interest even stronger.

I hope that Candida Brady and the rest of the team’s noble efforts will have a substantial impact, for our planet’s benefit.

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WINNER! Trashed awarded the Toyota Earth Grand Prix Special Jury prize.


© copyright 2012. Blenheim Films. Site by Webko.

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Jeremy Irons stands on a beach beside the ancient Lebanese city of Sidon. Above him towers a mountain of rubbish-a pullulating eyesore of medical waste, household trash, toxic fluids and dead animals-the result of thirty years of consumption by just one small city out of how many in the world? As the day’s new consignments are tipped on top, debris tumbles off the side and into the blue of the Mediterranean. Surrounded by a vast reach of plastic bottles, a forlorn Jeremy Irons stares at the horizon. “Appalling,” he mutters.

In the new docu-feature TRASHED, a Blenheim Films production, produced and directed by British filmmaker Candida Brady (Madam and the Dying Swan), which has been selected to receive a Special Screening at the Cannes Film Festival this month, Irons sets out to discover the extent and effects of the global waste problem, as he travels around the world to beautiful destinations tainted by pollution. This is a meticulous, brave investigative journey that takes Irons (and us) from scepticism to sorrow and from horror to hope. Brady’s narrative is vividly propelled by an original score created by Academy Award winning composer Vangelis.

The beauty of our planet from space forms a violent contrast to the scenes of human detritus across the globe. Vast landscapes in China are covered in tons of rubbish. The wide waters of the Ciliwung River in Indonesia are now barely visible under a never-ending tide of plastic. Children swim among leaking bags; mothers wash in the sewage-filled supply. Each year, we now throw away fifty-eight billion disposable cups, billions of plastic bags, 200 billion litres of water bottles, billions of tons of household waste, toxic waste and e-waste.

We buy it, we bury it, we burn it and then we ignore it. Does anyone think about what happens to all the trash we produce? We keep making things that do not break down. We have all heard these horrifying facts before, but with Jeremy Irons as our guide, we discover what happens to the billion or so tons of waste that goes unaccounted for each year. On a boat in the North Pacific he faces the reality of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the effect of plastic waste on marine life. We learn that chlorinated dioxins and other man-made Persistent Organic Pollutants are attracted to the plastic fragments. These are eaten by fish, which absorb the toxins. We then eat the fish, accumulating more poisonous chemicals in our already burdened bodies. Meanwhile, global warming, accelerated by these emissions from landfill and incineration, is melting the ice-caps and releasing decades of these old poisons, which had been stored in the ice, back into the sea. And we learn that some of the solutions are as frightening and toxic as the problem itself.

We hope the film will demonstrate that by changing the way we live our lives, we can contribute to our own survival and well-being and ultimately that of the planet.

Jeremy Irons

Academy Award winning actor Jeremy Irons is no stranger to taking centre stage. But his role as our guide in TRASHED highlighting solutions to the pressing environmental problems facing us all, could well be his most important yet. “We’ve made this movie, because there are so many people who feel strongly the urgent need for the problem of ‘waste’ and ‘sustainability’ to be addressed,” Irons says. “There is an equally urgent need for the most imaginative and productive solutions to this troublesome subject to be understood and shared by as many communities as possible throughout the world. This is where movies can play such an important role, educating society, bringing ‘difficult’ subjects to the broadest possible audience.

If you look at Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, like it or loathe it, everyone’s heard of it. Potentially movies have the power to reach everyone, touch us on an emotional level and to galvanise us.” Candida Brady spent over two years researching and filming TRASHED, but Brady has been focused on the problems of waste and the environment for most of her adult life. “As a lifelong asthmatic I have always been interested in the effects of pollution. But it was meeting an environmental doctor (who saved my life) that opened my eyes to the direct effects the environment has on our health,” explains Brady. “When I was young I was the only kid with an inhaler-these days it’s fast becoming the opposite.”

Having faced the worst through much of TRASHED, Jeremy Irons turns to hope. He goes in search of solutions. From individuals who have changed their lives and produce almost no waste, to increasing anti-waste legislation, to an entire city which is now virtually waste-free, he discovers that change is not only essential, but happening.

Air Quality Monitoring

Clear the Air says:

The Tuen Mun AQMS is on the roof of the library, not at roadside. It is there to assess the pollution from the sludge incinerator that is currently being built in the District.

So the bright sparks in Government have a system where the sludge is dewatered in Stonecutters Kowloon, then (diesel) barged or (diesel) trucked to Tuen Mun 24/7 to be incinerated.

The Tseung Kwan O AQMS is to monitor the extended landfill.

Of course there should be a roadside  AQMS in each major district of Hong Kong and on our remotest islands to monitor shipping emissions.

South China Morning Post  12 December 2012

The government would consider building more air quality monitoring stations in the city even though there are already enough for policy making and scientific purposes, lawmakers were told yesterday.

Two new stations in Tuen Mun and Tseung Kwan O are already planned in response to development and the growing population in those areas.

Apart from those two, the Environment Bureau would consider adding more stations to the 11 general and three roadside ones to satisfy the public’s desire to have specific air quality readings in the districts where they live, Undersecretary for Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai said.

She was speaking at a Legislative Council public accounts committee hearing convened in response to last month’s Audit Commission report, which had criticised the government’s pollution-cutting measures as ineffective, inadequate or stalled by red tape.

Environment officials told the hearing that they were briefing government departments about a new air quality index and hoped to discuss it with the Legco environmental affairs panel by June.

Mok Wai-chuen, assistant director for the Department of Environmental Protection, said there were enough stations to cover Hong Kong.

He said it was not necessary to have more stations for scientific research and policymaking, adding that the department reviewed the network of stations every year.

Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit was sceptical about Mok’s comments. “Logically speaking, if resources allow, the more data you collect, the better it is for scientific purposes,” he said.

Loh replied: “We may add more stations according to the public’s needs. But there hasn’t been a conclusion within the government yet.”

Loh said the bureau accepted an expert report to replace the existing 17-year-old air quality index and were in touch with experts from the World Health Organisation for further studies. She said the new index, modelled on a Canadian approach, was innovative. It would include how air quality affects health.

Mok said it costs HK$3 million to build a station and HK$1.5 million to HK$2 million a year to maintain it.

11th-Hour Battle To Sway Outcome Of PM NAAQS Revision

Daily News

Groups Wage 11th-Hour Battle To Sway Outcome Of PM NAAQS Revision

Posted: December 12, 2012

Industry groups, environmentalists, lawmakers and others are making last-minute pitches to try and influence the outcome of the agency’s imminent revisions to its fine particulate matter (PM2.5) national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS), with EPA facing a Dec. 14 legal deadline to decide whether to tighten or retain the NAAQS.

EPA has also agreed to respond by Dec. 14 to environmentalists’ petition asking the agency to undo provisions in 39 state implementation plans (SIPs) — air quality plans for meeting EPA air standards — exempting excess emissions during startup, shutdown and malfunction (SSM) periods from counting toward air law compliance.

But the agency has secured a one-month extension — from Dec. 14 to Jan. 14 — for issuing a reciprocating internal combustion engine rule that had also been due under a Dec. 14 settlement deadline.

Observers had questioned whether EPA would make the end-of-week deadlines, noting that the PM2.5 and engine air rules were only sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in December and that inter-agency review can take several months. OMB review is mandatory before EPA can publish important rules.

The agency’s expected tightening of its PM2.5 national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) is likely to have the most significant impact as it will affect all areas of the United States. If EPA follows through on its proposal to tighten the existing 1997 level of 15 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) down to a range of 12-13 ug/m3, it could put several new areas out of attainment, requiring them to craft strict pollution control plans to meet the NAAQS.

Critics say those plans will impose massive costs and hinder the economic recovery. For example, Howard Feldman of the American Petroleum Institute (API) argued on a Dec. 12 conference call that a stronger standard would have “certain costs and doubtful benefits,” questioning the science underpinning a stricter standard.

He also said that a tighter PM2.5 NAAQS, combined with other forthcoming EPA rules, “would be a blow to our economy as it struggles to recover and put Americans back to work.”

Feldman said API is urging EPA to retain the current standard, and said his group will meet with OMB Dec. 13 to discuss the rule. But noting that the standard is due to be finalized only one day later, Feldman said “I’m not sure how fair a hearing our comments will get given” the impending deadline to finalize the rule.

Environmentalists have expressed confidence that EPA will finalize the NAAQS Dec. 14, and supporters have called on EPA to set a tighter standard than proposed, down to at least 11 ug/m3.

Push For Stricter Standard

In a Dec. 6 letter to OMB, attorneys general (AGs) from New York, Maryland, New Mexico, Washington, Vermont and other states note that they successfully challenged the 2006 standard in the D.C. Circuit case American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA, and the D.C. Circuit found that it was “contrary to law.”

The AGs argue that setting a standard at 13 ug/m3 “would not satisfy the agency’s obligation under the statute to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety,” citing both the findings of EPA staff and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee that harms could come from PM2.5 exposures below this level.

“Therefore, we believe it would be contrary to the Clean Air Act and to the D.C. Circuit’s decision in American Farm Bureau to set the annual standard at 13 ug/m3,” the AGs say.

They also express support for a standard no higher than 12 ug/m3, saying it is “necessary to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety as required under the Clean Air Act” and “compelled both by the extensive and overwhelming public health evidence contained in the record and by EPA’s own 2010 quantitative health risk assessment for particulate matter.”

Citing the need to “protect our nation’s most vulnerable,” 56 House Democrats sent a letter to EPA Dec. 10 urging the agency to adopt a strong standard, saying it is necessary to reduce the number of hospital admissions, emergency room visits and premature deaths related to cardiovascular and respiratory complications.”

And the Natural Resources Defense Council in a Dec. 7 letter to EPA highlighted several new studies linking PM2.5 exposures to life expectancy and pulmonary issues to bolster calls for a stricter limit, saying that “we think it is important to consider this important information as EPA finalizes the standards.”

Meanwhile, EPA also faces a Dec. 14 settlement agreement deadline with Sierra Club and other environmental groups to reply to their petition asking the agency to undo the SIP provisions allowing SSM exemptions from air law compliance.

Environmentalists argue that emissions during such events can be orders of magnitude greater than emissions during normal operations, and that some SIPs contain provisions that are inconsistent with EPA policy and recent court decisions that have said SSM exemptions are not allowed under some air standards.
Bobby McMahon (

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Third runway will be costly white elephant

SCMP Letters 11 Dec 2012

I read with amusement the report (“International pilots back plan for third runway at Hong Kong Airport”, December 3).

Why do you find this interesting or newsworthy? Of course they would, wouldn’t they? International Formula 1 drivers would no doubt back a plan to turn the whole SAR into a racetrack, but that is no reason to do so, and no reason for the taxpayers to pay for it.

Far more to the point was the letter by Clive Noffke (“Shipping statistics sound a warning on airport runway three”, November 30). This shows that the Hong Kong government’s standard methodology of forecasting by simple extrapolation is fatally flawed – it was proved wrong with the proposed container terminal 10, and with the 2004 super prison. Falling container shipping numbers, taken with Cathay Pacific’s falling cargo numbers, show that the fundamental drift of exporters away from the Pearl River Delta is accelerating.

Add in the fact that passenger numbers are unlikely to increase, as more mainland airports open up direct flights to the rest of the world, and the case for a third runway starts to look very shaky.

But don’t worry, it will only cost HK$130 billion, and the cost will be passed on to the taxpayers, so of course “international pilots” are clamouring for it. And of course, when cargo and passenger volumes fail to materialise, it can always be used as a go-kart track, and the officials who backed it will have retired, so they won’t mind.

R.E.J. Bunker, Lantau

Cancer mortality in towns in the vicinity of incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste

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