Greenpeace accuses government of weakness in setting emissions caps The environment watchdog has quietly renewed the licence of Hongkong Electric's coal-fired power station on Lamma with a more lenient emissions cap than that imposed on CLP Power's Castle Peak power station. Green critics accused the Environmental Protection Department of being 'too weak' in setting emissions standards which it said could be achieved with ease by the power producers. Details of the new licence, issued on September 14, were not revealed publicly until they were outlined by a senior environment official at a meeting of the Legislative Council economic services panel yesterday. The panel was discussing the power generators' regulatory regime. Caps on three key pollutants require Hongkong Electric to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and suspended particles by amounts ranging from 5 to 38 per cent from this year's levels next year, and 8 to 46 per cent in 2008. The department said the reductions were made possible by a new gas-powered plant now in operation, which the power company said could eventually replace 15 per cent of its coal-fired capacity. The new caps are 28,200 tonnes for sulfur dioxide, 17,000 tonnes for nitrogen oxides and 810 tonnes for particles, to be met by the end of 2008 with interim yearly targets at the end of next year. The 2,500MW generation units on Lamma produced emissions of 31,000, 18,500 and 1,500 tonnes respectively of the three pollutants last year. In August last year, the department renewed the 4,100MW Castle Peak power station's licence for two years, and set caps for the three pollutants for the years ending this June and mid-2007. Another cap was imposed on its Black Point gas-fired station early this year. Based on allowed levels of emissions per megawatt generation capacity, Hongkong Electric's caps were slightly more lax than CLP Power's for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, while Hongkong Electric enjoyed a longer licence period. Frances Yeung Hoi-shan, a campaigner for Greenpeace, said the cap level for sulfur dioxide was 50 per cent above their expectations. 'There is a huge discrepancy from our expectation,' she said. 'The caps are so lax that [the government] seems to be favouring the interests of the power companies. The caps are toothless while the government is too weak.' A source close to the Environmental Protection Department said officials were afraid the power companies would seek judicial reviews if they found it was too difficult to achieve the caps. 'They don't want to take the risk and that's why they have to impose lenient caps first,' the source said. A spokeswoman for Hongkong Electric said it would have little difficulty complying. The company was pleased to have the Lamma power station licence renewed and was confident that all the emissions caps specified would be met, she said.