December 20, 2016 / 8:33 AM / 10 months ago

City in China's Shandong limits coal-fired power to cut smog: notice

People walk in heavy smog during a polluted day in Jinan, Shandong province, China, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - A major city in China’s Shandong province has ordered seven coal-fired power plants, including one of the nation’s largest, to cut output by nearly two-thirds to curtail hazardous smog that has blanketed the north of the country.

In a notice reviewed by Reuters, the environmental regulator of Zoucheng city in Shandong, a province known for both its farming and industrial facilities, ordered at least 30 companies to either cut output by 60 percent or shut completely starting last Friday.

The cuts include one of China’s largest coal-fired power plants with an installed capacity of 4.5 gigawatts owned by Huadian Power International.

The city’s move offered a glimpse into the magnitude of factory shutdowns across northern China as the world’s second-largest economy scrambles to deal with heavy smog that has engulfed the country’s north for a fourth day.

More than two dozen cities have issued their highest possible pollution alerts, shutting schools, curbing traffic and closing airports.

Buildings are seen in heavy smog during a polluted day in Jinan, Shandong province, China, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

For Zoucheng, the cuts are unprecedented, an official from the city’s Environmental Protection Agency told Reuters.

“We are facing the worst scenario of pollution this year,” the official said.

Factories owned by brewer Beijing Yanjing Brewery Co Ltd and paper company Shan Dong Sun Paper Industry were also ordered to curb output by 60 percent, according to the notice from the Agency.

The measures will last as long as the city’s current level 2 smog alert is in effect, said the official.

The alert will end when the official air quality index (AQI) drops below 200 and improves for three consecutive days, an EPA document reviewed by Reuters showed. An AQI reading above 200 is considered hazardous to human health. On Tuesday, it was at 370.

Reporting by Meng Meng and Josephine Mason; Additional reporting by Muyu Xu; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Christian Schmollinger

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