Tue, Aug 19, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Group says EPA set a bad precedent with Formosa


Environmental groups yesterday criticized the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for its reluctance to pursue criminal cases against industrial polluters accused of dumping toxic mercury-tainted waste in Pingtung County.

Last Friday, long-term negotiations between the Pingtung County Government and Formosa Plastics Corp (台塑) resulted in an agreement between both sides to share the costs of cleaning up an illegal waste dump in Hsinyuan (新園) township, where significant amounts of toxic mercury-tainted sludge was discovered in 1999. The agency also signed on to the NT$240 million cleanup-project agreement as a party.

The government agrees to pay NT$90 million, while Formosa pays the remaining NT$150 million.

Legislators and environmentalists yesterday criticized the EPA for its lack of courage in tackling influential companies.

"The EPA should have not made the notorious pollution event a precedent to be followed by other industrial polluters," Green Formosa Front chairman Wu Tung-jye (吳東傑) said at a press conference yesterday.

The waste was secretly dumped by a bogus waste handler, Yuntai, that contracted with Formosa. Since February 2000, the Pingtung County Government has intended to carry out an administrative disciplinary action for Formosa, which refused to obey and filed a lawsuit against the local authority. Formosa, since then, had declined to confirm its relationship with the waste.

In 2001, the Control Yuan concluded that the waste was originally generated by Formosa, and censured related bodies, including the EPA and local governments.

To save administrative cost, the Kaohsiung High Administrative Court had encouraged the parties to come to an arrangement.

Eric Liou (劉銘龍), secretary-general of the Taipei-based Environmental Quality Protection Foundation, said the agency listened to the court without getting public opinions.

"The EPA's behavior shows the lack of environmental justice and the government's dignity," Liou said.

Liou argued that the EPA should punish related parties according to the Soil and Ground-water Pollution Remediation Act (土壤及地下水污染整治法) without spending a cent.

Legislators said that Formosa Group chairman Wang Yung-ching (王永慶) was forthcoming with his opinions about power plants, waste and other environmental topics.

"At this moment, we'd like to see Formosa's corporate responsibility from Wang," DPP Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清) said.

Jao said that the Legislative Yuan would do its best to freeze budgets pertaining to the cleanup project.

In 1998, Formosa shipped 2,700 tonnes of toxic waste to Cambodia which was improperly discarded.

In 1999, backing down to international pressure, Formosa shipped the waste -- along with 1,900 tonnes of soil it had contaminated in Cambodia -- back to Taiwan.

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