China's Hebei vows to shut polluting steelmakers from September 1

10 August 2017

Steelmakers in the smog-prone northern Chinese province of Hebei will be forced to halt operations next month if they fail to meet tough new pollution restrictions, the local environmental authority said in a notice.

Steel enterprises must comply with state and province-level emission restrictions by Sept. 1 or they will be shut down, the Hebei Province Environmental Protection Bureau said late on Tuesday.

City governments should "leave no dead ends" when it comes to eliminating firms that fail to comply with the pollution control measures, the bureau said in a notice.

Heavy industrial Hebei, which surrounds China's capital Beijing, was home to six of the country's 10 most polluted cities last year and has been on the front line of a nationwide "war on pollution".

The province produces a quarter of the country's steel and promised to shut at least 60 million tonnes of its massive 286 million tonne annual production capacity during the 2013-2017 period. It also vowed last year to impose "special emissions restrictions" on the steel sector as it tries to meet tough 2013-2017 pollution targets.

To impose those restrictions, authorities have cut the amount of emissions permits granted to steel firms, forcing them to make extra efforts to upgrade technology and clean up their production processes.

"Right now all enterprises have to implement the emissions permit system and emit according to how many permits they get - otherwise they will be in breach of regulations and will be punished," said an official with the steel industry association in Tangshan, China's biggest steelmaking city.

"All enterprises that fail to meet these standards will be affected," he said, adding that the current campaign was one of the reasons why steel prices were on the rise.

The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is under pressure to cut 2012 levels of small particulate matter by around 25 percent for the whole of this year, with Beijing aiming to keep average PM2.5 rates at below 60 micrograms per cubic meter, down from 73 micrograms in 2016.

However, the region is under heavy pressure as a result of a near-record smog levels in January and February, which forced dozens of cities to issue "red alerts" to curb industrial activity and thin traffic.

According to the latest environment ministry data, average PM2.5 readings in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region rose 14.3 percent in the first half of the year to 72 micrograms, mostly as a result of the January and February spike.