On January 24, 2021, the State Council promulgated the Regulations on the Administration of Pollution Discharge Permits (“the Regulations”), which came into force on March 1, 2021 with the following highlights.
1. General provisions
An enterprise, business organization or any other producer or operator (the “Pollutant Discharger”) subject to the pollution discharge permit administration under the law shall apply for a pollution discharge permit under the provisions of the Regulations; they shall not be allowed to discharge any pollutant without obtaining a pollution discharge permit. For those enterprises, business organizations and other producers and operators who only produce and discharge minor amounts of pollutants with very small environmental impact, they are only required to fill out a pollution discharge registration form and are not required to apply for and obtain a pollution discharge permit. Forgery, alteration or transfer of a pollution discharge permit is prohibited.
The Pollutant Dischargers are subject to categorized pollution discharge permit administration: (1) those generating and discharging pollutants with relatively greater impact to the environment shall be subject to focused administration of pollution discharge permits; and (2) those generating and discharging pollutants with relatively lesser impact to the environment shall be subject to the simplified administration of pollution discharge permits. The scope of Pollutant Dischargers that are subject to the pollution discharge permit administration, the implementation steps and the list of categories under administration shall be formulated by the ecological and environmental authority of the State Council and promulgated after they are submitted to the State Council for approval.
2. Application and approval
The Pollutant Dischargers are required to apply for a pollution discharge permit from the ecological and environmental department of the local people’s government above the level of city with districts (the “Approval Department”) in the place where their production and operation sites are located. Pollutant Dischargers with two or more production and operation sites are required to apply and obtain separate pollution discharge permits for each of the production and operation sites. The application for a pollution discharge permit may be submitted through the national pollution discharge permit administration platform or through mail and other means.
The Approval Department shall handle a pollution discharge permit application pursuant to the relevant circumstances, including making a notification that the application was not needed, directly proceed with the application, or only handle the application after errors have been amended or the supplemental materials have been provided. The Approval Department shall review the application materials submitted by the Pollutant Dischargers and may also conduct on-site audit and technical assessments without charging any fee from the Pollutant Dischargers.
The Approval Department shall timely issue the pollution discharge permit to a Pollutant Discharger that meets the required conditions, or provide a written explanation on the grounds for not granting the approval. For Pollutant Dischargers subject to simplified administration, the Approval Department shall issue its decision within 20 days after the date of receipt of the application; for Pollutant Dischargers subject to focused administration, the Approval Department has 30 days from the date of receipt of the application. If on-site audit is required, the review decision may be made within 45 days after the date of the acceptance of application.
3. Pollution discharge administration
Pollutant Dischargers are required to comply with the discharge permit and operate and maintain pollution control facilities pursuant to the ecological and environmental administration requirements, create an environment management system and strictly control its discharge of pollutants. They shall also construct pollutant discharge outlets and set up signage as required by the ecological and environmental competent department. The location and number of pollutant discharge outlets and how pollutants are discharged shall be consistent with the discharge permit. The Pollutant Dischargers shall carry out self-monitoring and keep original monitoring records as required by the pollution discharge permit and relevant standards. The original monitoring records shall be kept for no less than 5 years. The Pollutant Dischargers subject to focused administration shall install, use and maintain automatic pollutant emissions monitoring equipment that are connected to the monitoring equipment of the ecological and environmental department.
4. Supervision, inspection and legal liability
The competent ecological and environmental department shall strengthen interim and ex post supervision of pollution discharge permits, record the time, contents and results of enforcement and inspection and its penalty decisions on the national pollution discharge permit management information platform. The penalty decisions shall also be incorporated in the relevant credit information system of the state for public announcement.
Pollutant Dischargers that violate the Regulations will be subject to penalties such as rectification orders, fines, production restriction orders, production suspension and remediation, revocation of the pollution discharge permit, suspension of business and closure. An ecological and environmental department that violates the Regulations will be subject to rectification orders from its superior agency, and the supervisors directly in charge and other directly responsible personnel will be sanctioned in accordance with law.