China punishes 19 firms for faking pollution data

BEIJING - China has punished 19 firms for submitting fraudulent pollution data in order to reduce emissions charges or qualify for green electricity subsidies, the environment ministry said in a notice published late on Thursday.

Beijing, currently waging a "war on pollution", has vowed to get tough on industrial enterprises and local authorities that routinely flout its rules. It is also investing heavily to build a nationwide real-time emission monitoring system in order to improve the reliability of its data.

Zhou Shengxian, China's environment minister, said in remarks published on Friday that the firms had been ordered to pay a total of 410 million yuan (S$82.4 million) in punitive power prices and emission fees, and have also been ordered to rectify their problems or face further punishment.

Firms on the list include subsidiaries of big state utilities like China Power Investment as well as the Ningxia unit of the country's biggest oil firm, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), parent of PetroChina.

Kunming Iron and Steel Corp, a unit of Wuhan Iron and Steel , China's third biggest steelmaker, was also accused"severely distorting" emissions data and using damaged equipment.

None of the firms were immediately available to comment on the matter.

The notice said the firms were guilty of a range of offences including deliberately turning off equipment and manipulating the real-time data they submit to the government.