Tue, Nov 13, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Protesters accuse the EPA of protecting big business

PUSHED TOO FAR Former EPA committee member Robin Winkler said the Yunlin County Council speaker physically assaulted him for opposing a planned plant

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Robin Winkler, a former member of the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) environmental evaluation committee, speaks yesterday in front of the EPA in Taipei, criticizing the agency for showing little sincerity and concern over Winkler's claims that he was physically assaulted at an enviromental impact assessment meeting dealing with Formosa Plastic Group's planned steel plant in Yunlin County a few days ago.

PHOTO: CNA

Environmental groups yesterday demonstrated in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), saying the EPA sides with enterprises at the cost of the environment.

"We refuse to let business interests rule our government agencies!" the activists chanted.

Last Wednesday, Formosa Plastics Group's (FPG, 台塑集團) steel plant proposal in Yunlin County (雲林) underwent an environmental impact assessment (EIA), Green Party Taiwan (GPT) Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said. The meeting with FPG was requested to present data from environmental impact investigations and adjustments from a previous assessment, Pan said.

Yesterday the EPA representatives of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), GPT and Taiwan Academy of Ecology said that from the EPA's track record, they feared the administration would based on FPG and pass the first assessment despite the fact that, "FPG is currently responsible for a quarter of Taiwan's greenhouse gas emissions."

"With the steel plant in operation, that figure would soar to a third, with an additional 15,000 tonnes of emissions annually," Pan said.

"At this rate, they would be emitting more emissions than all the homes, businesses and transportation around the nation combined," he added.

Former EPA environmental impact committee member Robin Winkler, who was also at the press conference, said that Yunlin County Council Speaker Su Chin-huang (蘇金煌) physically assaulted him at the first EIA because he spoke out against the construction of the plant.

"As a foreigner who has done so much for Taiwan's environmental protection, I feel defeated that the government would condone violence against environmentalists," he said while showing his bruises from the alleged assault.

"Our demonstration is a result of being pushed over our threshold," TEPU Secretary-General Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳) said, citing incidents in the past year when environmentalists were arrested during demonstrations, prosecuted for protesting, and [Winkler] being physically assaulted.

"We can no longer tolerate this kind of treatment," he said.

"We are going to have a large-scale anti-global warming demonstration on Dec. 8," Pan said, adding that "we are determined to make the government hear our voices."

In response to the allegations, EPA Minister Winston Dang (陳重信) said that while he respected the opinions of the environmental groups the allegations were "completely impossible."

"We follow the same EIA regulations for any construction proposal," he said. "We respect environmentalists and invite them to speak at EIAs."

With regards to the alleged assault, Dang said that the case is now under investigation and that he would not comment because he wasn't present at the incident.

"We have done our best to respond; the EPA's limited police force did make efforts to pacify the conflicting parties at the time," he added.

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