Minister could push through new aims instead of going through long legislation process, greens say.
Green activists have accused the government of delaying the introduction of new air quality objectives by opting for time-consuming legislation.
They say environment officials could enact the objectives through administrative means instead of legislation. But they have no plan to launch any legal challenge since it might delay the introduction of the new standards even further.
The government has already wasted four years – from consulting the public to endorsing the controversial amendments. The outdated objectives were first introduced in 1987.
The Environment Protection Department’s draft bill will be tabled in Legco in the next legislative session beginning in October. After approval, the new objectives are expected to become law by 2014.
But the department also intends to allow a three-year grace period for projects whose environmental impact assessments have already been approved. As a result, the new objectives will not be fully in force until 2017 for some projects.
Environment secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah could introduce the new objectives quickly by amending the technical memorandum of the Environmental Impact Assessment ordinance. This process does not require legislative approval. Yau is empowered to make such an amendment under the air pollution control ordinance as long as he believed the change was in the public interest and would protect air quality.
An EPD spokesman said the three-year transitional arrangement was needed to ensure the continuity of some projects before the new objectives were introduced.
But he did not explain why the department insisted on a legislative approach.