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LCQ13: Updating Air Quality Objectives

     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council meeting today (February 29):


     In reply to my question on February 8 this year concerning the implementation of the new Air Quality Objectives (AQOs), the Secretary for the Environment (SEN) did not give any definite response to the inquiries about updating the existing Air Pollution Index (API) first and the need to amend the legislation, and emphasised that the implementation of the new AQOs and related transitional arrangements required amendment of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap. 311) (the Ordinance).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that it is already stipulated in section 7(3) of the Ordinance that "[a]ny air quality objective may be amended from time to time by the Secretary, after consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment", of the justifications for SEN to point out that the implementation of the new AQOs required amendment of the Ordinance; and the related transitional arrangements mentioned by SEN;

(b)whether it has studied the feasibility of updating the existing API first; and

(c)whether it has assessed the impact on public health of postponing the implementation of the new AQOs to 2014?



(a) and (b) Apart from serving as objective standards for local air quality, Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) are a major factor for consideration in granting licences to specified processes (e.g. power plants) under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance and in assessing the impacts of designated projects on air quality under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance. In the process of updating the AQOs, we must make appropriate transitional arrangements, including drawing up a specific timetable for introducing the new AQOs to enable applicants of licences for specified processes and proponents of designated projects to plan their work on a highly transparent and legally sound basis. We also have to consider carefully the impact of the introduction of the new AQOs on projects for which an environmental permit (EP) has been issued. In the process of implementing the project, if application for variation of the EP becomes necessary and a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is warranted, applying the new AQOs may require significant amendments to the original design of the project, which will have major implications on the planning, cost, and even feasibility of the project. In order to reduce the uncertainty to those designated projects which have already completed the statutory EIA process as well as maintain the integrity of project planning, we have proposed, after careful consideration, a 36-month grace period from the commencement date of the new AQOs during which the new AQOs shall not apply to an application for variation of the EP.

     Amendment of the Air Pollution Control Ordinance is a prerequisite for the implementation of the new AQOs and the aforesaid transitional arrangements. We shall table the Amendment Bill to the Legislative Council in the 2012/13 legislative session. To complement the updating of the AQOs, we shall review and improve the current Air Pollution Index system accordingly.

(c) We have been endeavouring to improve the air quality and have already implemented a series of air improvement policies and measures, targeting in particular the power generation industry, vehicles and fuel oil quality, in order to reduce air pollution generated from their operation. Along with updating the AQOs, we shall step up the implementation of the 19 Phase I emission control measures as well as three additional measures. The latter include retrofitting of Euro II and III franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction devices, installing remote sensing devices at roadside and conducting advanced emission tests to strengthen control on emissions from petrol and LPG vehicles, requiring ocean-going vessels to switch to cleaner fuels while berthing and setting up Emission Control Area in Pearl River Delta waters in the long run. In addition, to underscore Government¡¦s determination and to take a leading role, Government has decided that Government projects, for which EIA studies have not yet been commenced, would endeavour to adopt the proposed new AQOs as the benchmark for conducting air quality impact assessment in the EIA studies, so that newly planned Government projects could match the more stringent air quality requirements as soon as possible.

Ends/Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:30


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