Chinese citizen suit on air pollution

When looking at the local factors that can shape a UNFCCC state party’s “nationally determined” contribution or commitment, litigation looms large in the U.S.  Exhibit A: President Obama’s decision to use his executive branch authority to implement his Climate Action Plan.  Although he intends to deliver SCOTUSon the U.S. promise to reduce its GHG emissions 17% below the 2005 baseline, the President still can’t move any faster than legal challenges to his rulemaking permit.  While the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA led to the EPA making an endangerment finding on carbon dioxide and then regulating it under the Clean Air Act’s mobile source authority, the agency’s decision to expand regulation to stationary sources like factories and electricity generation facilities has been challenged in court by industry.  Yesterday, the USSC heard oral argument on Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, where the specific question presented on certiorari is “whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.”  This Christian Science Monitor article tees up the case and this one predicts that the stationary souce rule will be struck down based on the oral arguments.

Litigation in China, however, isn’t as frequent – or at least, as well known.  That’s why a report today on a suit filed by a person in smog-ridden Hebei Province north of Beijing merits attention.  Many recent news china air pollutionarticles from Chinese state media have indicated increased Environment Ministry efforts to curb China’s well-known air pollution.  But there have been few reports of individual litigants challenging government action or inaction.  Li Guixin, a resident of Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern province of Hebei, submitted his complaint to a district court asking the city’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law.”  He also asked for compensation.  Li claims money spent on face masks, an air purifier, and a treadmill to get indoor exercise in December are due to him:  “Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes.”  For more on the suit and the government’s response, read here.