Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 1 News List

EPA administrator resigns

DIFFERENCE OF OPINION Hau Lung-bin said disagreements with the Cabinet over proposed referendum legislation mean he can no longer function in his post

By Chiu Yu-tzu and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) head Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) tendered his resignation yesterday, saying he doubts he will be able to carry out national policies because his views on referendums differ from those of the Cabinet.

"I disagree with the Cabinet's opinion [on referendums] and can no longer carry out its policies. It would violate administrative ethics if I keep serving in the post," Hau said at a press conference at the EPA yesterday afternoon.

Though Premier Yu Shyi-kun rejected his proposal, Hau said he was determined to go.

"We'll continue to communicate with him since he's such a great individual, both personally and professionally," Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said yesterday evening.

Hau is the only ministerial-level official from the pan-blue camp in the DPP-led administration.

The resignation came only one week after Hau suggested that public development projects whose environmental impact assessment (EIA) had already been passed, should be exempt from the application of the Cabinet's proposed referendum law.

Hau said that after the referendum held by residents of Pinglin Township, Taipei County, on Sept. 13, he had argued that "public opinion should not be more important than professional opinion," and that "the result of an advisory referendum should not take precedence over an environmental impact assessment."

"I'm sorry to see that all my professional opinions on the referendum have been politicized," Hau said.

"Development projects involving NIMBY [not-in-my-back-yard] environmental facilities can only be smoothly processed under the environmental impact assessment system," Hau said.

Hau yesterday said if projects whose EIA had already been conducted could not be exempted from the application of a future referendum law, investors would be scared away.

"It will lead to a lose-lose situation for both economic development and environmental protection," Hau said.

During yesterday's press conference, Hau said the last straw was yesterday morning's weekly closed-door Cabinet meeting at which Yu ordered a stop to disputes over referendums and environmental impact assessments.

"It's inappropriate to bring up the subject now rather than a year ago when we were reviewing the draft bill of the initiative and referendum law," Yu said. "I hope all Cabinet officials respect the resolution of the Cabinet meeting and I don't want to hear anything about it from now on."

To expedite passage of the referendum law, the Cabinet yesterday decided to withdraw its draft initiative and referendum law and endorse the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus version.

Yu yesterday assigned Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) to negotiate with opposition lawmakers to persuade them to enact a referendum law striking a balance between environmental protection and direct democracy.

Liu is considered the front runner to fill the vacancy left by Hau. Liu used to be the head of the Taipei City Government 's Environmental Protection Bureau when Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was mayor and has also served as head of the Taichung County Government's Environmental Protection Bureau.

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