The precedent-setting legislation establishes a comprehensive liability scheme for soil contamination, increasing fines for pollution violations while creating tax benefits for remediating contaminated properties.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s highest legislative body, passed the nation’s first law dedicated to soil protection and pollution prevention on August 31, 2018. China’s new law regulates soil pollution comprehensively and establishes liability policies, representing a major advancement in Chinese environmental governance. The law comes into effect on January 1, 2019.
The law follows the “polluter pays” principle and requires land-use rights holders to investigate and assess soil conditions upon the occurrence of pollution events or the transfer of property. The land-use rights holder or the state may then pursue claims against the responsible parties for the cost of investigation and remediation.
Notably, the new law does not set forth specific soil pollution standards. Rather, the State Council will be tasked with establishing national standards for soil pollution risk control based on soil contamination status, public health risks, and ecological risks. The new law focuses in particular on land used for construction projects and agriculture. Contamination of agricultural land is a key area of concern for the Chinese public due to several highly publicized food safety incidents over the past decade. A survey in 2013 revealed that nearly 3.3 million hectares of farmland in China is too contaminated to be used for growing crops.