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Advisory Council on the Environment

Proposed Amendments to
Air Pollution Control (Motor Vehicle Fuel)Regulation 1999 (Cap. 311, sub. leg.)

 

(ACE Paper 2/99)
for advice

Purpose

This paper seeks Members' advice on the proposed amendments to the Air Pollution Control (Motor Vehicle Fuel) Regulation in the Annex. The proposed amendments aim to prohibit the supply and sale of leaded petrol and fuel additives containing lead.

Background

2.In many countries, leaded petrol is a major source of lead in the environment, which can reach significant levels. Chronic exposure to lead may cause a variety of illnesses such as anaemia, hypertension, irritability and lethargy. In particular, the nervous system of children is susceptible to damage by lead.

3.In Hong Kong, the lead content in the air has been kept at very low levels and in full compliance with our Air Quality Objectives for many years, partly due to the high usage of unleaded petrol and partly due to the heavy reliance on diesel vehicles, which do not emit lead. Nevertheless, there is a worldwide concern on the long term chronic adverse health effects of lead and the banning of leaded petrol is now an international practice. Many developed countries have already banned the sale of leaded petrol. To join the global effort in banning leaded petrol and to remove completely this source of lead in Hong Kong, we propose to ban the supply and sale of leaded petrol from 1 April 1999.

4.Unleaded petrol was introduced to Hong Kong in April 1991, primarily to enable us to introduce a new generation of clean petrol vehicles which use a catalytic converter to clean up their emissions. Since the lead content in leaded petrol can damage the converter, vehicles installed with catalytic converters and imported from 1992 onwards are thus specifically designed to run on unleaded petrol. However, it does not mean that vehicles without catalytic converters must use leaded petrol. In fact, almost all petrol vehicles currently in use in Hong Kong can run on unleaded petrol without any difficulty or loss in performance.

5.The vast majority of petrol vehicles in Hong Kong are already running on unleaded petrol. In mid 1998, unleaded petrol sales accounted for over 90% of the market. Most of the vehicles imported before 1992 are also fuelled by unleaded petrol.

6.For a very small number of vehicle models, generally over 15 years old, a small quantity of additives to provide lubrication and protection to their valve seats may be necessary. The major oil companies will supply such fuel additives to their customers. These special additives do not contain lead.

Proposed Amendments

7.The Air Pollution Control (Motor Vehicle Fuel) Regulation (Cap. 311, sub. leg.) has laid down the specifications for unleaded petrol. We propose to prohibit the sale of leaded petrol by requiring all petrol supplied by a petrol supplier or sold by a petrol retailer to comply with the specifications for unleaded petrol. Violation of these requirements will be made an offence and liable to a fine of $50,000. However, a petrol retailer shall not commit an offence if he can prove that his petrol is supplied by a petrol supplier as unleaded petrol. In practice, this means that unless a petrol retailer obtains his petrol from a dubious source, say smugglers, the liability of supplying unleaded petrol for sale lies with the petrol supplier.

8.We also propose to prohibit the supply, sale and dispensing of lead-containing fuel additives. However, a person selling or dispensing a lead-containing fuel additive shall not commit an offence if he can prove that he obtained or purchased the additive with a warranty or other written evidence from the person who provided him the additive that it does not have lead.

9.For more effective enforcement, we propose that there shall be a presumption, unless the contrary is proved, that the person whom it is alleged to have committed the offence knows that the petrol is leaded petrol or that the fuel additive contains lead.

Consultation

10.The oil companies and the Motor Traders Association support the proposal to ban the supply and sale of leaded petrol. The oil companies will supply lead-free fuel additives to help very old petrol vehicles to use unleaded petrol. We have also consulted the Hong Kong Automobile Association, fleet managers and utility companies, and those associations with interest in classic cars. They all support the proposal. Only some classic car clubs are doubtful about the efficacy of lead-free fuel additives. However, lead-free fuel additives have been used widely in different parts of the world with success.

Implementation

11.Subject to the endorsement by the Council and approval by the Legislative Council, the proposal will commence on 1 April 1999.

Staff Implication

12.The enforcement of the proposal will be same as the current one for petrol. Samples of petrol and fuel additive will be collected from filling stations regularly to check their compliance with the statutory specifications for unleaded petrol. The additional workload is expected to be minimal.

Public Reaction

13.The public in general will welcome the ban of leaded petrol because it will improve the environment and maintain the international image of Hong Kong as a responsible city. As suitable lead-free fuel additives will be available in petrol filling stations, it will cause little inconvenience to the motorists. Based on the current pricing of the fuel additives that are now on offer, the motorists who are using those old vehicles that were designed to run on leaded petrol need not pay more in using unleaded petrol even with the fuel additives.

Advice Sought

14.Members are requested to advise whether the Air Pollution Control (Motor Vehicle Fuel) (Amendment) Regulation 1999 in the Annex should be made by the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands for introduction to the Legislative Council.



Planning, Environmental and Lands Bureau
January 1999


 

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