The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday that any proposed industry-related government policy must first undergo an environmental impact study before being submitted for review and approval to the Executive Yuan or other government agencies.
The EPA also said that any city zoning projects that involves more than 10 hectares of land would also have to submit an environmental impact report (EIR).
Liu Chug-chun (劉佳鈞), deputy director general of the EPA's Department of Comprehensive Plan-ning, said that these amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act for Government Policies (政府政策環境評估作業辦法) achieved two breakthroughs.
In the past, only government policies that needed the Cabi-net's approval were required to submit an EIR. The amendment, however, calls for policies that need to be approved by any central government agency to submit an EIR as well.
Another breakthrough, according to Liu, is that the law can help resolve any controversy involving environmental concerns.
Liu added that the EPA would ask the government to consider the opinions of local environmental protection groups.
"The main purpose of the amendment is to facilitate dialogues between government agencies and local interest groups," Liu said.
Liu added that the policy would not affect the evaluation of any current investments, including the Formosa Plastics Group's steel plant and Chinese Petroleum Corp's petrochemical plant.
The new regulation also will not apply to government projects that have already been launched, such as the Suhua Highway connecting Ilan and Hualian counties and Yunlin's Hushan Dam.
Liu also identified policies that will be affected by the new rule, including those related to energy-intensive industries, preservation of water resources, cross-island highways and railway systems.
Liu said, however, that while the reports will be submitted to the government agencies in charge of the execution of the policies for consideration, they will not be given a stamp of approval or disapproval.
"Of course [the government agencies] can ignore the content of the review and go ahead and approve the policy," Liu said, "but they will have to bear the risk of approving potentially unpopular policy."
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications applauded the EPA's move, adding that as the amendments seek to encourage cooperation among government agencies, they should help the ministry in winning endorsements from other government agencies for its construction projects.
"In the short run, however, the amendment will not have a major effect on us," said Lee Tai-ming (李泰明), the director-general of the Department of Railways and Highways, as ongoing projects have already undergone environmental impact studies.