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September, 2014:

E. Quat’s degrees don’t equate

It’s time to take down another legislator for overstating their qualifications. Readers may recall that in 2005, Webb-site asked LegCo’s Committee on Member’s Interests to investigate the degree-mill qualifications of “Dr” Philip Wong Yu-hong. They decided that the matter was outside their jurisdiction, and that the Advisory Guidelines on Matters of Ethics are unenforceable. However, as a result of our complaint, the Committee did eventually amend the guidelines in 2005, so that the current version states:

“A Member should ensure that the personal information (e.g. qualifications) he provides to the Council (including the Legislative Council Secretariat) is correct and true.”

Now, fast forward to 2014, and “Dr” The Honourable Elizabeth Quat Pui Fan, JP of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of HK, claims on her LegCo biography page to be a “Doctor of Philosophy (Management)”. In biographies elsewhere on the internet, in her election biography for the Chief Executive Election Committee, she also claimed a “BBA and MBA in Marketing”. But nowhere could we find a statement of where these qualifications were obtained. So Webb-site wrote to her office, and her assistant replied that the degrees were:

 1993 Bachelor in Business Administration (Greenwich University, Hawaii)
 1994 Master of Business Administration (Greenwich University, Hawaii)
 1996 Doctor of Philosophy, Management (Greenwich University, Hawaii)

Ah yes, Greenwich University, Hawaii. We can tell you a thing or two about that. In no way is it related to the legitimate University of Greenwich (formerly Thames Polytechnic) in England. Greenwich University, Inc. (GUI) was incorporated in Hawaii on 2-Feb-1990. It never received any accreditation from an accreditation body recognised by the US Department of Education. That makes it a degree mill by our measure. Its officers included Marjorie Fishman, Pauline Butler and one “John Walsh of Brannagh” (John Walsh). It operated out of this bungalow at 103 Kapiolani Street, Hilo, Hawaii, then home of Douglass L Capogrossi, President of Greenwich University (yes, that’s Douglass with two esses).

Full Letter

S China trash incinerator still under discussion: government

Sep 14,2014

A controversial trash incinerator project in Huizhou City in south China’s Guangdong Province is still in the discussion stage, local government said on Sunday in response to a mass gathering Saturday.

The planned ecological garden, which will contain an incinerator project, is still being discussed, said the spokesman with the Huizhou Municipal Government.

Rumors claimed the site of the garden had already been decided and the project was under construction, but they were all misinformation, said the spokesman.

More than 1,000 people gathered at a square in the city’s Bolong County on Saturday over concerns about site selection for the project.

Roads were not blocked and there were no extreme behaviors, such as smashing or looting, during the mass gathering, the spokesman said, adding that the crowd dispersed around 11:30 a.m. the same day.

The planned ecological garden will contain trash recycling, landfill, incineration and biological treatment facilities, he said.

A draft of the plan was published in the Huizhou Daily on August 16 and will be posted on the city’s housing and construction bureau website for one month. Specialist agencies are also conducting survey and evaluation work on the project’s environmental implications and geological conditions.

Government authorities will hold a demonstration meeting and hearings with the participation of local residents and experts. The demonstration and final decision will be made in accordance with the law and legal procedures, said the spokesman.

The municipal government of Huizhou will give full attention to the site selection and is soliciting opinions from all sides to make a law-based scientific decision, he added.

He said he hopes the public can remain rational and express opinions and appeals in a peaceful way.

Incinerators are considered the most feasible and effective means for Chinese cities to dispose of massive amounts of garbage.

The Huizhou mass protest follows another protest by hundreds of residents in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province over an incinerator project.

Protests began in April when the Hangzhou municipal government released information about the incinerator. It is a major project for the city, which must find a way to ease pressure on garbage disposal.

Local government authorities promised construction would not start without public support and before going through the legal process.

States: EPA climate regs illegally left out data

Timothy Cama – 08/25/14

The attorneys general from 13 states told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that its proposed rule in June to reduce carbon pollution from power plants broke the law by omitting supporting information.

Led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the officials wrote in a Monday letter that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to include a wide range of data when it proposes certain regulations. That includes the data upon which the rules are based, as well as the methodology and legal interpretations the EPA used.

“These docketing requirements are nondiscretionary,” wrote the attorneys, who represent major coal states including Wyoming, Indiana and Montana. “Finalizing a rule without providing parties with the technical information necessary for meaningful comment renders the final rule unlawful.”

The attorneys go on to say that the climate rule, which was published in two pieces for different kinds of power plants, “repeatedly violated” the data provisions. The agency excluded information from the EPA’s modeling, heat rate data from coal power plants and any technical information to support its rules for modified power plants.

“This is another blatant example of this agency’s disregard for the rule of law,” Morrisey said in a statement. “It is abundantly clear that EPA and the Obama administration will not allow anything to get in the way of enacting these illegal, burdensome regulations on coal-fired power plants.”

The attorneys general asked that the EPA immediately to withdraw the rule and, if the agency wants to go forward it, propose it again with the correct data.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said she is confident that the rule is on solid legal ground. She cited the numerous recent federal court decisions that have upheld EPA air regulations.

Most of the attorneys in the Monday letter are also participating in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that says the EPA overstepped its authority in writing the climate rule.

Waste companies and government guilty of obstructive inertia

Friday, 19 September, 2014

I write in reference to Elvis Au’s letter “Waste already transported by sea [1]”, (August 27).

Gustave Flaubert, the famous French author, wrote that “Le bon Dieu est dans le detail” – God is in the detail. The phrase has also been attributed to the French architect Le Corbusier and the modern American-German architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

A deliberate variation on the phrase is “The Devil is in the detail”, meaning it is easy to come up with a grand overall plan for something, but difficult to justify that plan when all the detailed questions show up.

In the context of waste management, Ségolène Royal, the French minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy, recently stated that incineration is an obsolete technology and we should be moving towards a zero-waste society.

French multinationals Veolia Environnement and SITA – a subsidiary of Suez Environnement – are effectively a waste duopoly in Hong Kong. In France, the official waste “valorisation”, or the value creation rate from waste recycling, for these two companies is said to be around 70 per cent. By comparison, in Hong Kong the figure for the same companies is around 0.25 per cent.

Their global slogans translate as “making waste into a resource” and “global but local”. They and Au need to explain why these slogans don’t apply in Hong Kong. Judging by local figures, their slogan should be “do nothing at all”.

Hong Kong is at the bottom of the world table in recycling municipal solid waste, lower than many developing countries, making it the most wasteful city in the world.

Why is this the case, Mr Au? Who is responsible and accountable?

Premier Li Keqiang has forcefully stated that officials who obstruct progress by doing nothing are guilty of a form of corruption. The waste situation here is a prime example of such obstructive inertia.

The detail is revealing. Veolia and SITA on the commercial side, together with the Environmental Protection Department on the government side, are the primary vested financial interests in waste management in Hong Kong.

How much are waste management contracts worth each year, Mr Au? Who is in charge of the consortia favoured for all the proposed waste infrastructure projects in the city? Let everyone guess before you selectively reply.

Serafina Cheung So-hing, secretary, Anesidora Nature and Eco Education Association

dynamco Sep 19th 2014

We cannot have a Zero Waste policy without legislation
We have no source separation of waste legislation
We have no Govt provided collection system for recycled items which are currently voluntarily separated at source
The Govt intends to charge for waste collection without installing the two above measures so your nicely separated recyclables will get charged for & lumped in with the rest of the trash
Govt wants to spend money on ‘Green’ education centres in all districts instead of a big stick legislation
Recyclable items contaminated by HKG’s ultra wet food waste are useless – HKG deliberately ignores the advice of CIWEM’s worldwide policy on the use of the sewage system to handle food waste
Flawed ‘Blueprints’ are all wind no action
We have no method to handle remaining non recyclable construction waste that must be buried- yet Govt was offered a FREE 150,000 tpa Plasma plant that could destroy this , but refused it
HKG local recycling figures are fake & include transit import waste from overseas that passes thru HK port enroute China
All in all a retrograde disaster with Burn ‘n Bury policies
The waste collection companies cited are just using the system to get rich + the system is broken

Since Santa Monica resident Ms Loh is fully aware of California’s 77% recycling rate  and legislation it is ‘strange?’ that no such legislation is forthcoming here

Unforeseen Dioxin Formation in Waste Incineration

Ingrid Söderbergh, September 18, 2014

Dioxins forms faster, at lower temperatures and under other conditions than previously thought. This may affect how we in the future construct sampling equipment, flue gas filtering systems for waste incineration and how to treat waste incineration fly ash. These are some of the conclusions Eva Weidemann draws in her doctoral thesis, which she defends at Umeå University on Friday the 26 of September.

Dioxins is a collective name for a specific group of chlorinated organic molecules where some exhibit hormone disrupting and carcinogenic properties. Dioxins can form in waste incineration, as the flue gases cool down.

“When you incinerate waste, some dioxin formation is inevitable, but with the modern flue gas cleaning systems the emission through the stack is minimized, The dioxins are filtered from the flue gases and end up in the fly ash“, says Eva Weidemann.

That dioxins form is known since the 80’s but in the thesis work Eva Weidemann shows that these toxic substances can form under previously unseen conditions. Amongst other findings she describes formation of dioxins within the flue gas filters of a full scale waste incineration plant.

“The intended function of the filters is to remove the dioxins from the flue gas, but I found that they actually formed instead. The dioxin emissions from the plant still falls below the legislative limits, but that the formation takes place in the first place is bad news. We have identified key parameters for the formation and approximate mechanics. My hope is that our findings can contribute to better filter design in the future,” says Eva Weidemann.

Another problem addressed by the thesis is that dioxins can form within the sampling equipment used during high temperature sampling and Eva Weidemann has investigated how to carry out high temperature dioxin sampling to avoid this occurrence. The solution is more efficient cooling at a critical stage, which then prevents the formation of dioxins.

Eva Weidemann have also looked at how dioxins in waste incineration fly ash is influenced by different of hot and cold treatments to find possible methods to detoxify the ashes. The results are not entirely conclusive, but they provide puzzle pieces that can help.

“If we could find a good detoxification method for the fly ashes, it would be an environmental benefit from a dioxin perspective but also in other aspects such as recycling”, says Eva Weidemann.

Waste incineration is despite the dioxins a good option to utilize the energy in waste that cannot be sorted and recycled. The waste is reduced in weight and volume, and bacteria and odor disappears. In addition, combustion a more climate friendly handling method in comparison to landfilling. The methane gas that forms as the waste decays is a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide formed during combustion. The pollution problem attributed to the method in the 80’s and 90’s are today nearly eliminated with the help of advanced filters and purification systems, as well as periodic emission controls.

‘Japan incinerator technology not suited to Malaysia’

6 July 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: An incinerator in Malaysia is not needed even if it is based on Japanese technology as the situation in both countries is different.

Referring to Japan’s offer to supply its incinerator technology to Malaysia, Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming said Malaysia is not the suitable place to implement Japanese incineration technology.

“It is because we have not done something that Japan has already done which is separation of waste at source,” he said, adding that Japan has its own schedule to collect different types of rubbish every two days.

“To put it simply, all waste streams are separated at source and collected separately in Japan,” Ong said in a press conference in Laman Resident Kipark, near here today.

Ong, who visited three Japanese incineration plants during an unofficial trip with several NGOs, said Japan needs incinerators because it does not have enough land.

“In Malaysia, there is enough land to implement other programmes and not just incineration, such as recycling centres, setting up a bio-gas facility or anaerobic digestion. We have other options,” he added.

Recently, Japan offered its incinerator technology to Malaysia when a Malaysian delegation met that country’s Waste and Recycle Management director-general, Shigemoto Kajihara.

The Malaysian team, led by National Solid Waste Management Department (JPSPN) director-general Dr Nadzri Yahaya, included Kepong MP Dr Tan Seng Giaw and Hulu Langat MP Dr Che Rosly Che Mat.

Also in the delegation were Gerakan’s Batu parliamentary coordinator Prof Dr Dominic Lau, Umno Kepong representative Abdul Razak Abdul Rahman and Kuala Lumpur Tak Nak Insinerator (KTI) representative Lam Choong Wah.

However, KTI claimed the trip was merely an agenda to mitigate the negative perception of incinerators in Malaysia.

Lam said Japan and Malaysia had different and unique environments.

“Japan is in a different situation (compared to Malaysia) which made them select the incinerator as the only technology in waste management,” he said.

Disturbing U-turn on flawed environmental report for third runway

Friday, 12 September, 2014

Samantha Lee

The Advisory Council on the Environment will meet on Monday to discuss whether to advise the Environmental Protection Department to give the green light to the third-runway plan. After a closed-door meeting of the council’s impact assessment subcommittee last week, the majority of members now appear to support endorsing the Airport Authority’s environmental impact report.

This is a complete reversal from last month, when most council members criticised the measures proposed to lessen the project’s effect on Chinese white dolphins. What made them change their mind?

Two main concerns were initially raised. First, the proposal for a marine park was deemed “too little, too late”, as it would not be located in a key dolphin habitat and would only be set up after the construction phase.

Second, nothing was proposed to lessen the impact on the dolphins of the more than 300 vessels travelling daily in and around the construction site. In addition, the species would suffer a permanent loss of 650 hectares of habitat.

Then came the turnaround. On September 1, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department suddenly announced that it was ready to designate two new marine parks – proposed 14 years ago – off Lantau Island by 2017.

The department has denied any link between these new parks and plans for the third runway. Yet, one day after the announcement, the council’s impact assessment subcommittee held another meeting, at which the majority of members said they would approve the Airport Authority’s environmental impact assessment report for the third runway.

The reasons for this U-turn are difficult to fathom.

The marine park announcement cannot be used to facilitate approval of the third runway. If members really want the two marine parks to help alleviate the project’s impact on the dolphins, they need to be discussed in the context of the third runway; the first step being an extension of the new parks’ boundaries to link up with existing marine parks near Tai O. Some council members may also have been swayed by the Airport Authority’s new 30-page plan released on September 2, which suggests financing conservation and research on marine ecology and fisheries. Yet there are doubts about some of the scientific claims in the report. Further, the authority describes it as “supplementary information”, casting doubt on whether the suggestions would actually be implemented.

Then there is the fact that the plan lacks any effective measures to alleviate or compensate for the loss of marine habitat caused by reclamation work during the building of the third runway.

In fact, none of the proposed marine parks would lessen the impact of the large-scale reclamation work. So why the sudden change of heart by council members when no progress has been made? It’s disturbing, when the authority’s impact assessment report clearly remains substandard and flawed.

Council members must make decisions in the best interest of Hong Kong’s environment. If the impact of the project cannot be properly addressed with the proposed measures, then the council is duty-bound to reject the impact assessment report.

Guangdong demonstrators take to streets for second day to protest waste incinerator plans

Sunday, 14 September, 2014

He Huifeng

Demonstrations against a controversial waste incinerator project continued in Huizhou in Guangdong yesterday ahead of today’s close of the public consultation over the plan.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the county’s government building and a public square, as anti-riot police stood monitoring the situation, according to several residents.

The protest followed a bigger rally on Saturday, when participants and witnesses estimated thousands took to the streets in Boluo county, demanding the authorities scrap the incinerator project, which would process 2,600 tonnes of rubbish a day.

Li Wei, a local resident, said a petition highlighting residents’ concerns was being circulated. “So far we have more than 20,000 names on more than 1,000 sheets of paper,” Li said.

“I believe more people will join the protest [today] and even students will turn out because it’s the last day of the government’s one-month public consultation over the project.

“If we don’t stand up to fight, it will be too late to save our community,” he added.

Municipal authorities said the location of the incinerator had not been decided.

They released a statement saying Saturday’s gathering was illegal and the work of people with ulterior motives. The local public security bureau said 24 people had been detained on suspicion of disturbing public order and causing trouble. Sixteen had received administrative punishment.

The local government would “further gather reasonable and lawful suggestions and opinions from the public” and would “pick the project site scientifically and in accordance of the law”.

In April, residents in three Guangdong cities – Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Maoming – took to the streets to protest against building a 3.5 billion yuan (HK$4.4 billion) paraxylene (PX) plant in Maoming.

In May, another mass rally over a proposed waste incinerator in the eastern city of Hangzhou left at least 10 demonstrators and 29 police officers injured.

At least five more people detained over Huizhou incinerator protest

Monday, 15 September, 2014

Huifeng He

Arrests follow weekend demonstrations involving thousands calling for project to be scrapped

At least five people were detained by police on Sunday in Huizhou in Guangdong for allegedly spreading false information over the internet to “incite” protest against a proposed trash incinerator project.

The arrests follow demonstrations during the weekend in which thousands took to the streets in Boluo county demanding the authorities scrap the project, which would process 2,600 tonnes of rubbish a day.

Since Saturday, the local public security bureau had taken away 32 people for investigation on suspicion of spreading rumours or disturbing public order and causing trouble, and 21 were still being detained.

Several local residents said they received electronic messages saying the municipal government had given approval to their taking to the streets peacefully on September 20 to voice concerns about the project. But the county’s authorities released a brief statement on Sunday night denying it had given such permission.

However, many local residents said they would again take to the street this coming Saturday, no matter the authorities approve. “We are not afraid of being detained. If we don’t stand up to fight, it will be too late to save our community,” Li Wei said

According to county authorities, the location of the incinerator had not been decided, and the party chief of the county was scheduled to meet today with representatives of the residents to hear their advice and appeals about the garbage incinerating plan.

Some internet users have called for demonstrations to spread to other cities in the Pearl River Delta. “People of Shenzhen, Dongguan and even Hong Kong should take to the street because incinerator would be so close to their water sources, Dongjiang River,” a person using the nickname Ai Yu Bu Ai said on weibo.

Pearl River Delta governments axe cross-border air quality index

Thursday, 04 September, 2014

Cheung Chi-fai

Decade-old index scrapped in favour of online platform that has been criticised as redundant and difficult for public to understand

Governments in the Pearl River Delta area have axed the decade-old regional air-quality index in favour of an online platform offering pollutant concentration readings that has been criticised as hard to understand.

The Environmental Protection Department announced the change in a press release yesterday after the environmental chiefs of Macau, Guangdong and Hong Kong signed an agreement on so-called “regional air-pollution control and prevention”.

The three governments agreed to do away with the index and a related map that used different colours to grade air quality across the region – a system in use since 2005 to monitor changes in air quality after a 2002 cross-border pact to reduce emissions.

After the termination of that index, there will no longer be a single yardstick covering the whole region. Rather, three different air-pollution indices and alert systems will now operate separately in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.

The EPD hailed the new agreement as progress, with hourly updates of pollution readings at 23 locations in the region, including the newcomer Macau, via an online platform managed by the Guangdong authority.

The platform displays a map of the region, with the hourly concentration levels of six pollutants, such as ozone and fine particles, shown at each of the 23 selected monitoring locations: four in Hong Kong, one in Macau and the rest scattered around the Pearl River Delta.

However, Guangdong’s environmental protection bureau already releases hourly updates of air-quality data on its website (and has since 2012), covering 111 locations in the province and the same range of air pollutants.

Dr Cheng Luk-ki, the scientific and conservation head of the advocacy group Green Power, criticised the change as “a step backward” and a “loss of a common language in air pollution”.

He said that while the old index was compiled based on the national air-quality standards, it at least offered the readers clarity and meaningful comparisons of air-quality measurements across the region.

“The public will now find it hard to understand the meaning behind those pollution readings, without a simple index to explain the impacts,” he said.

He said the online platform was already redundant, as it made more sense for people to go directly to the air-quality index offered by their own local environmental authority.

Professor Wong Tze-wai, an air-pollution expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who helped devise the city’s new air-quality health index, said neither an “oversimplified index” nor “complicated pollution readings” would be meaningful to the public.

He said it would be beneficial if the air-quality indices between Hong Kong and the mainland could be unified, but he believed that would be a time-consuming process with many technical problems that would have to be overcome.

Hong Kong now employs an alert system that gives air-quality information by neighbourhood on a scale of one to 11, displaying the health risk associated with each reading.

Macau and Guangdong, meanwhile, use conventional air-quality index systems that express pollution as one of six grades, with scales from 0 to 500 and from 0 to more than 300.