China may get tougher on pollution

China's environmental regulators on Thursday unveiled stricter emergency pollution controls for the Olympic Games that would shutter more factories and expand traffic restrictions if air quality fails to meet approved standards once the competition begins on Aug. 8.

The measures, posted on the Web site of the State Environmental Protection Administration, would only be invoked during the Games in the case of “extremely unfavorable weather conditions” – for example, hot, humid air without winds to disperse pollution.

The plan would broaden existing temporary restrictions in Beijing and also include the nearby municipality of Tianjin as well as surrounding Hebei province. In all, the new measures would encompass a region of more than 91 million people.

Pollution has been a persistent concern for the Games, even as Chinese officials have promised to deliver clean air by imposing restrictions on cars and factories. Those measures began on July 1, when more than 300,000 high-polluting vehicles were barred from the roads in Beijing.

Then on July 20, the city instituted alternate-day driving restrictions in which motorists were limited to driving on either odd or even days, depending on the last number on their license plate. The traffic restrictions have removed roughly 2 million vehicles from city streets.

But the expected radiant, blue skies have yet to appear. For four consecutive days, Beijing's gray, stifling skies failed to meet China's national air-quality standards, which are more lenient than those in the U.S. The situation has improved in recent days as colder air and rainfall has washed out some of the pollution, even as the skies remain mostly milky or gray.