In the previous issue, this column discussed the environmental protection regulations that foreign enterprises in the PRC need to heed; in this issue, the focus is the environmental legal liability of enterprises. The environmental legal liability of enterprises, particularly foreign enterprises investing in the PRC, has never received as much attention as it has today. The environmental legal liability that enterprises in violation of laws are required to bear includes administrative, civil and criminal liability.
These may apply singly, or in combination. For example, in the Ding River pollution incident in which Zijin Mining was involved, the implicated enterprise bore administrative, civil and criminal liability.
Most times, violations of environmental laws by enterprises will first be punished by the environmental authority. Depending on the circumstances of a violation of the law, administrative liability may be divided into such forms as warnings, fines, orders to suspend production and undergo rectification, orders to suspend production, halt operations or close down, and suspensions or revocations of permits or certificates. Fines are the most commonly applied. At present, PRC environmental laws have not centrally set an upper limit to fines. Rather, relevant fine amounts are set for specific violations of laws by enterprises in the regulations of various authorities. Environmental law enforcement efforts in the PRC are being increasingly intensified, e.g. in the incident of the pollution of the Ding River by the Zijinshan Gold and Copper Mine. The Fujian Provincial Environmental Protection Department issued fines totalling RMB9.56 million (US$1.5 million).
Wang Jihong is the managing partner at V&T Law Firm; Shi Jie is a partner at V&T Law Firm
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