Authorities in the northern Hebei province have arrested at least 12 people from three local companies for falsifying environmental data, which helped keep their reported air pollution in check.
In a notice Friday, the environmental protection bureau in the city of Tangshan said the local Jinma Steel Group had collaborated with a third-party environmental standard monitoring company to fabricate production records and evade emission-cutting measures. Employees at Xiao Tian Environmental Protection–the third-party company–were found to have destroyed monitoring devices and networks to help the steel maker create “severely distorted” environmental data.
The fabrications dated from early March, when the city reported a severe deterioration in air quality, according to the notice.
To achieve its clean air goals, China has been stepping up measures at the local and national level to punish polluters and demand environmental accountability from companies. Authorities have been swift in shutting down violators and imposing heavy fines on rule-breakers, as well as ensuring the authenticity of environmental data, following lapses over the years.
With an annual production of 144 million tons of crude steel, Tangshan is China’s top steel-making center and also has some of the lowest air quality in the country. In early March, Tangshan launched a monthlong emission reduction campaign to remove itself from the country’s top 10 list of heavily polluted cities by the end of the year.
On Thursday, authorities also called out two other plants–Tangshan Songting Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. and Tangshan Medium Thick Plate Co. Ltd.–for fabricating environmental data, adding that an unspecified number of people were arrested.
In the wake of the arrests, the province’s department of ecology and environment said the fraudulent records have “fully exposed the problems and shortcomings” of Hebei’s monitoring of polluting enterprises. The provincial authority has ordered investigators to check two other monitoring service providers–including market leader Focused Photonics Inc.–that had worked with the offenders.
Monitoring companies found guilty will be added to an official blacklist, limiting them from working with companies or bidding for government contracts.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari