Unprecedented Lawsuit and New Legal Amendments in the Fight Against Pollution
Amendments to China’s Environmental Protection Act came into effect on January 1, 2015, extending the possibilities to target polluters with public interest lawsuits, the Wall Street Journal reports. Paving the way in 2014, a case in Taizhou (Jiangsu) by the non-profit organization Taizhou City Environmental Protection Association sued six polluting factories who were then fined a total of $26 million—a record setting amount in cases of this nature. However, what makes this particular case especially pivotal is that it was allowed to proceed without the organization meeting all of the law’s stipulations.
Under the previous Environmental Protection Act, only “lawful authorities” and “relevant organizations” continuously engaged in public interest environmental activities and registered for a minimum of five years have the authority to initiate such lawsuits. The Taizhou City Environmental Protection Association was only created in 2014, the year of the lawsuit, and yet was still permitted by the courts to proceed in bringing the suit forward in the name of public interest. New 2015 amendments drop the requirement for “continuous engagement” while retaining the five year registration requirement, but the Taizhou lawsuit may offer an important legal precedent going forward.