The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), in its first environmental impact assessment meeting since the inauguration of the new government, yesterday ruled that the developers of two controversial construction proposals should focus on reducing carbon emissions.
Prior to the meeting, a group of environmentalists protested outside the EPA’s offices in Taipei. They urged the government not to push people to cut carbon in minuscule quantities while allowing industry to emit mammoth amounts.
“All construction proposals will be discussed under the government’s framework to significantly reduce carbon emissions,” EPA Minister Steven Shen (沈世宏) said in response to the protest. “Balances will be negotiated so that development plans can be made to fit in with that framework.”
In the two projects under consideration, a proposal by Dragon Steel Corp to expand its plant in Taichung County received a conditional pass. The EPA demanded that Dragon Steel, a unit of China Steel Corp, incorporate the cost of reducing the plant’s carbon emissions into its expansion plans.
“After the implementation of the soon-to-be passed Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Law, Dragon Steel will need to cut its emissions by at least 15 percent,” Shen said.
Since the plant emits over 10 million tonnes of carbon annually, at standard international carbon trading prices of about NT$1,000 per tonne, Dragon Steel may face an additional NT$1.5 billion (US$49.5 million) in expansion costs.
“If we can’t meet this requirement by amending our blueprint, we will either reduce the production level or purchase carbon credits,” Dragon Steel chairman Ou Chao-hua (歐朝華) said.
Taiwan Power Company’s (Taipower) proposal to expand its Dalin (大林) Plant in Kaohsiung City, a project that could increase the city’s carbon emissions by up to 10 million tonnes per year, was rejected and returned to the environmental impact assessment subcommittee.
Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Chiu Tai-san (邱太三), who represented the city at yesterday’s meeting, sided with environmental groups and locked horns with Taipower representatives over the company’s proposal to expand the plant’s single coal-burning generator operation into a four-generator plant.
While Taipower representatives said that the new generators would produce less pollution than the plant’s current machinery, the city government and environmentalists questioned why Taipower would not opt for cleaner, gas-burning generators, such as the ones Taipower used in Miaoli City.
“Liquefied petroleum gas [LPG] supplies are currently unstable and relatively scarce,” Taipower representatives said, adding that a plant of Dalin’s scale could not reliably produce electricity if it used LPG as fuel.
Environmentalist Lee Ken-cheng (李根政), a former member of the environmental impact assessment committee, accused Taipower of teaming up with the American Chamber of Commerce to employ scare tactics by saying that the nation was headed for an electricity shortage within five years unless its power plants are expanded.
“Since Taiwan will purchase the generators from the US, the chamber clearly has an ulterior motive,” Lee said.
“We are not opposed to the renewal of the plant, as long as it contributes to a greener Kaohsiung,” Chiu said in response to the EPA’s ruling. “We hope the subcommittee asks Taipower to employ LPG-burning generators, which is a decision that Kaohsiung would accept.”
Earlier yesterday, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) expressed opposition to the expansion plan, saying that Kaohsiung residents would be the biggest victims of its environmental consequences.
Although the company claims that the nation may face an electricity shortage if it failed to upgrade its power plants, Chen said, the interests of the city’s people should not be sacrificed for the sake of economic development.
Rejecting the expansion plan as “unacceptable,” Chen said that the company’s intention to renew its coal-fired power generators could increase the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tonnes per year.
However, she said, the extra power would only be used to meet demand in the northern part of the nation, which consumes more electricity than southern cities and counties, she said.
“It is unfair [for the company] to concentrate its carbon dioxide emissions in Kaohsiung,” she said.
The mayor said that the power plant was the main reason for the poor air quality in the city, adding that it would be impossible for the city government to counter the negative impact that expanding the plant would have.
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