Pictured: Hanyang “Johnny” Wei and the author meet in Guangzhou
A natural gas pipeline may soon run 232 miles across my home state of Oregon. The proposed project would cut across rivers and creeks and slice a 96 foot swathe out of the forest along its entire route, carrying a Canadian company’s fracked gas from the Rockies to a liquification plant and export terminal on the coast. Local environmental groups and media have raised a clamor, asking whether our land and safety should be put at risk so that a Canadian company can export dirty fracked gas to Asia.
But Oregon groups are not along in their resistance. In southern China, a group know as the Cross-border Environmental Concern Association (CECA) is challenging the state oil company’s plans to build a new LNG import terminal. The group operates through the area’s environmental impact assessment public comment processes, using legal codes to ensure that major construction projects conform to the country’s environmental codes.
“Many people think China has no environmental regulations, but it does. Very detailed ones.” Says CECA co-founder Hanyang “Johnny” Wei. The problem, as is so often the case, is with enforcement.
I sat down in September to talk to Wei about the group’s work in the area. I’ll be publishing a full writeup next week, but I wanted to share this tidbit ahead of time:
Up until a certain point in our conversation, I had assumed that CECA had legal advisers feeding them information on the area’s three legal systems [Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China]. Wei himself studied economics and finance, while many of the group’s other members are still earning their bachelor’s degrees.
When I asked, though, Wei chuckled and shook his head and indicated that none of them were professional lawyers. “But if none of you study law, how do you know which projects violate what laws?”
He laughed again. Google, he told me. Baidu. Plug some key words into a search engine, do your reading, and pretty soon you’re an expert.