Environmental lapses cost China coal-fired power producers $98 million

BEIJING (Reuters) - Violations of environmental regulations for scrubbing coal emissions have cost Chinese power producers 635 million yuan ($98.33 million) in lost subsidies and fines under new regulations that came into effect in 2014, the country's central planning commission said. Authorities confiscated or deducted 589 million yuan ($91.20 million) worth of environmental subsidies and fined companies 46 million for exceeding emissions standards, the National Development and Reform Commission said late last week. The costs are a sign that coal-dependant China still faces an uphill battle ensuring compliance with increasingly stringent anti-pollution standards. "For the next step, we will urge the relevant companies to strengthen improvements, push coal-burning power producers to speed up upgrades and renovation of environmental equipment, and guarantee de-sulphurisation equipment is operating normally, to reach the targeted level of emissions," Shi Zihai, commission spokesman told a news conference on Friday. Under the 2014 regulations, coal-fired power plants receive subsidies for using scrubbing technologies to reduce emissions of sulphur, nitrogen oxide and dioxide, as well as smoke and dust. In May, the commission said regulators would inspect producers over the summer for violations. Last week the city of Beijing issued its first smog "red alert," banning heavy vehicles, restricting the number of cars on the road, advising schools to cancel classes, and requiring outdoor construction to stop. Coal is responsible for around 75 percent of power generation in China, though the government has said it would cut power sector emissions by 60 percent by 2020. ($1 = 6.4581 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting By Adam Rose; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)