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THE MINISTRY OF Environmental Protection has rejected the plan for a chemical plant to produce polyolefin in Southwest China's Guizhou province, due to the pollution risk. The 17 billion yuan ($2.6

billion) project, led by Sinopec Group, Asia's largest oil refiner, failed to provide solutions to control the airborne pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, that would be discharged during production. Beijing Youth Daily on Thursday lauded the environment watchdog's decision:

Undoubtedly, Sinopec's rejected chemical project is a big blow not only to the oil giant, but also to the local government, given its projected annual production and revenues. But unlike many of its kind, which were often given a free pass in their environmental impact assessment, it failed to proceed without being preferentially treated.

Apart from its planned location, which is adjacent to underground water channels, the project also had huge air pollution risks, and did not offer a proper plan to cope with an emergency. Although the company is allowed to apply for an administrative review within two months or file an administrative lawsuit within six months, there is no doubt that the polyolefin-producing project as planned would jeopardize the environment.

Many have applauded the decision made by the ministry, which has rarely said no to similar projects because of their potential environmental impacts.

If properly operated, the suspended Sinopec project would have been conducive to alleviating the job losses from reducing the local overcapacity in coal production. That makes the environment authorities' well-founded rejection even more praiseworthy.

That some local governments, in the hope of sustaining economic growth, lower the standards when assessing the environmental impacts of major industrial projects is incorrect and short-sighted. Turning to blind eye to potential environmental risks for the sake of short-term yields, is not in line with the ongoing transition of the country's economic structure.

(China Daily USA 03/04/2016 page16)