Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Yunlin residents hopping mad over biomass plant

NOT IN OUR BACKYARD The county's residents say the government and the builder of the plant have turned a deaf ear to their calls for an impact study

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Yin Lin-in, left, and residents from Huwei Township in Yunlin County yesterday protest in front of the Legislative Yuan against the government's plan to build Taiwan's first biomass power plant in their township.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-DE, TAIPEI TIMES

About 200 Yunlin County residents yesterday burned bundles of straw in front of the legislature to protest the government's plan to build the nation's first biomass power plant in their county.

"We have lost patience with government officials and the plant's builder, as they have disregarded our appeals that an environmental impact assessment be performed for the plant," said Chou Shih-lung (周世龍), a borough chief from Hueilai Village (惠來) in the county's Huwei Township (虎尾).

The Ministry of Economic Affairs selected Hueilai Village as the final site for the biomass power plant this May and broke ground for the project shortly afterward. The start of construction came two years after the government decided to develop the nation's biomass energy capacity.

Since then, village residents have staged protests against the plan.

But Chou said that the Yunlin County Government only agreed to temporarily suspend construction.

"They failed to gain approval from residents and then decided to resume work," he said.

The protesters were led by Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Yin Lin-in (尹玲瑛) who said that Hueilai Village residents have been worrying that the biomass power plant will harm their health as well as the environment.

Yunlin County, which is known for its rice, oranges, garlic and peanuts, among other produce, is a typical agricultural county, with 68 percent of the county being farmland.

Given that Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, won the commissioner election last year with the promise that she would build the county into an "Agriculture Capital," there is no point in the government establishing a power plant in the county, Yin said.

Yin said that many assume that the power plant plan was a result of collusion between government officials and businesses, and said that prosecutors should look into the plant, for which the government has appropriated NT$400 million (US$12 million) for its establishment.

Chang Tzu-chien (張子見), chairman of the Yunlin chapter of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, said that the builder intentionally avoided having to perform an environmental impact assessment for the plant by setting its handling capacity at 198 tonnes per day -- two tonnes shy of the threshold for projects requiring such assessments.

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