It's the Environment, Stupid.

Friday, January 26, 2007

$128,000 maximum fine for toxic spills in China

The AP reports via The NY Times that Jilin Petrochemical Company was fined $128,000 for "one of the country’s worst toxic spills".

A blast at the chemical plant in Jilin province in November of 2005 let loose around 100 tons of benzene into the Songuha river leaving millions of people without clean water.

According to the BBC, China announced last year that more than $1.2 billion would be spent on the clean-up.

Back when the explosion and subsequent spill was acknolwedged by the Chinese govt, it was also said those responsible for the Benzene slick would be punished. (See this BBC article for a timeline of events surrounding the spill - the acknowlegement came 10 days after the explosion, and an apology to Russia for the cross border contamination 3 days after that.)

China recieved a lot of flack in the international arena for the supposed cover-up (archived in the pay-to-read section of the NY Times online) and it certainly increased tensions with Russia.

But I must ask - is $128,000 (1 million Yuan) a mere slap on the wrist for a petrochemical company? This is the MAXIMUM fine for such toxic releases in the country, which seems to me hardly an incentive to keep things safe. Granted the enviro protections in China have been criticized for not being up to snuff, and even in the US many companies get off easy, but it never ceases to amaze me that penalties and precautions are NEVER more expensive than the clean-up costs (not to mention the ecological and human health damage incurred.)

Links to some related toxic spill/clean-up posts:
Toxic Sludge in Africa
Oil - a valuable commodity?

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