Officials in the Chinese city of Tangshan have announced they will be intensifying enforcement efforts to reduce local air pollution after two weeks of especially heavy smog across northern China. Tangshan, located in the Northern province of Hebei near Beijing, is China’s top producer of steel (Reuters, Hindustan Times).

Statements released by the authorities warn that heavy industry firms in both the steel and cement sectors must reduce or halt production any time the city releases a heavy pollution alert. The goal of the policy is to reduce overall emission of toxic air pollutants by 50% (South China Morning Post). Companies that fail to comply will face heavy punishments, including the revocation of all pollutant discharge permits and decreases in their discharge performance rating. The owners of companies found out of compliance may face detention or criminal charges (Reuters, South China Morning Post).

The decision to increase enforcement was motivated not only by the increasingly obstructive air pollution in the area, but also by increased pressure from the central government in Beijing. A surprise inspection from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment discovered that several factories in Tangshan had been out of compliance with existing air pollution regulations, leading the Ministry to urge city officials to crack down. The four companies that failed inspections were fined 1 million yuan ($153,600) each, in addition to losing their permits and having key personnel detained (South China Morning Post). The interest in Tangshan’s environmental performance may be related to China’s pledge to reduce its steel production this year to better align with its carbon emission reductions goals (SP Global, Reuters).