Chinese solar maker Jinko Solar (NYSE:JKS) promised to clean up its toxic waste only after protestors stormed its factory.
500 Chinese protestors broke into Jinko’s factory, ransacking offices and overturning vehicles, after toxic waste released into a river killed large numbers of fish.
According to China’s state media agency, the factory’s waste disposal facilities have failed pollution tests since April, and authorities had previously ordered the company to suspend operations.
In response to the protests, the company apologized for improper storage of waste, which contained fluoride, saying it "will take all necessary steps to ensure that it is in compliance with all environmental rules and regulations. Any deficiencies in environmental protection uncovered will be immediately remedied."
A company spokesperson said, "We cannot shirk responsibility for the legal consequences which have come from management slips."
The local Environmental Protection Department fined Jinko 470,000 yuan ($75,625). Reports from China suggest that authorities have begun to apply previously lax environmental standards more strictly as demonstrations in several areas of the country have received widespread attention.
While solar offers a clean energy alternative to fossil fuels, the production of silicon for solar panels is far from clean and uses lots of energy.
Solar manufacturers in the US and elsewhere have long complained that lax environmental standards, as well as state subsidies and low wages, give Chinese companies an unfair competitive advantage for sales of solar panels.
In the US, manufacturers Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt and Solyndra recently declared bankruptcy, saying they couldn’t compete with inexpensive Chinese panels.
Speaking at China’s Low Carbon Technology Innovation Forum in December, Hu Chuli, director of the Institute for Industrial and Technical Economic Studies, pointed out that while China accounts for more than 40% of the world’s silicon production, 95% of that production is earmarked for export.
In other words, China protects the environment of other countries while relying on fossil fuels within its own borders.
Pollution has become one of the country’s biggest problems, as citizen backlash rises against its lax laws regarding industrialization.
Read more about citizen protests to toxic chemicals in China: