Jiangxi Zhengpeng Environmental Protection Technology Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Zhengpeng Company") signed contracts with Hangzhou Tangqi Thermal Power Co., Ltd. and others between 2017 and 2018 to transport and dispose sludge generated from the production process of several companies in consideration of corresponding sludge disposal fees. LI De, the de facto person in charge of Zhengpeng Company, dumped the sludge acquired from other companies directly, or together with Fengcheng Zhihe New Materials Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Zhihe Company), or handed it over to ZHANG Yongliang, SHU Zhengfeng and others who were not qualified for disposal of sludge to dump on multiple plots in the urban area of Jiujiang City. Hangzhou Lianxin Building Materials Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Lianxin Company"), knowing that ZHANG Yongliang was engaged in illegal transport of sludge, still allowed him to dispose the sludge using blank contracts with the company's seal. The identification results showed that the above dumped sludge totaled 14,800 tons, causing soil, water and air pollution which requires 14,462,900 Yuan for restoration. After the incident was revealed, the People's Procuratorate of Xunyang District, Jiujiang City filed a criminal lawsuit against SHU Zhengfeng et al (6 people). SHU Zhengfeng et al (6 people) were held to be guilty of environment pollution charges by Jiujiang Intermediate People's Court at the second instance and sentenced imprisonment for terms from 10 months to 2 years and 2 months with 50,000 Yuan to 100,000 Yuan fines. Upon consultation in accordance with relevant regulations, Jiujiang Municipal People's Government reached an agreement on compensation with Hangzhou Tangqi Thermal Power Co. Ltd. Since no compensation agreement was reached with Zhengpeng Company, Lianxin Company, LI De or seven others, Jiujiang Municipal People's Government filed this lawsuit, requesting each defendant to fulfill its obligation to restore the ecological environment, pay for ecological restoration, make public apologies and bear attorney's fees and litigation costs.
Jiujiang Intermediate People's Court, Jiangxi held in first instance that Zhengpeng Company and the de facto person in charge LI De directly dumped the sludge or handled it over to ZHANG Yongliang, SHU Zhengfeng and others to transport or dump, causing serious environmental pollution, and should bear the liability for corresponding ecological and environmental damage compensation. ZHANG Yongliang processed the sludge involved in this case with the sealed blank contract from Lianxin Company. Lianxin Company, without fulfilling its regulatory obligation, allowing ZHANG Yongliang to dump sludge illegally, should bear joint and several liability. XIA Jiping, as the de facto person in charge of Zhihe Company that cooperated with Zhengpeng Company to dump the sludge, also personally obtained a share of the profits from such cooperation, and thus shall bear joint and several liability. The sludge in the polluted plots involved was mixed together and cannot be restored separately. The court held that each defendant shall jointly bear the responsibility for the restoration of the sludge dumpling plot and restoration fee to be paid in case of non-fulfillment of the restoration obligations, make public apologies to the society on media at the provincial level or above and jointly pay for the preparation of environmental assessment report, risk assessment fees and attorney's fees.
This is an ecological and environmental damage compensation case of serious ecological and environmental pollution caused by cross-provincial dumping of industrial sludge in the Yangtze River Economic Belt. On the basis of pursuing the criminal responsibility of the defendant company and each defendant according to the law, Jiujiang Municipal People's Government gave full play to the role of consultation, promoting some of those liable for damages to reach an agreement and actively fulfill their restoration and compensation obligations; in case of failure in negotiation, the ecological and environmental damage compensation lawsuit was filed according to the law, achieving effective connection between the pre-litigation consultation and the filing of the lawsuit. The judgment has made it clear that the operator, even with no direct involvement in the dumping act, shall bear the joint liability with the disposer for allowing the illegal dumping behavior. It also made it clear that several people illegally transporting and dumping sludge in a coordinated manner share bear liability jointly when it is impossible to distinguish the amount of sludge dumped by each tortfeasor. That is to say, we applied the most stringent legal regime for environmental protection.