Wed, Jun 10, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Petrochemical project needs second-stage EIA

FOUR-HOUR HEARING While environmentalists voiced concern about land subsidence and health risks, local residents spoke about the plant’s economic benefits

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Changhua County residents rally in front of the Environmental Protection Administration in Taipei yesterday in support of Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co’s proposed industrial complex in Tacheng Township.

PHOTO: CNA

An Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) committee decided yesterday that Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co’s plan to build an industrial park on reclaimed land in Changhua County needs to undergo a more thorough environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Second-stage EIAs, which are more detailed and have tighter requirements, are usually only required for developments deemed to pose “serious implications for the environment.”

“The proposal will seriously impact on the local environment, its nearby fish farms, ecosystem, flood regulatory system, underground water and soil and air quality. Kuokuang should also communicate with local residents more clearly regarding health risks,” the EIA case committee chairperson said after the committee voted overwhelmingly to send the proposal to a second-stage EIA.

The decision could mean delays for Kuokuang’s NT$800 billion development along the northern bank of the Chuoshui River (濁水溪).

Kuokuang chairman Chen Pao-lang (陳寶郎) said the company “gladly accepts the ruling” and will work hard to get a green light.

An environmentalist who wished to remain anonymous said the ruling might appear to be a “setback” for the company but was simply “a show staged to get environmental groups to relax their guard.”

“Kuokuang intentionally presented a very poor EIA proposal today so that it would have to enter the second stage. However, the company already has a plan in hand to pass the second EIA. It has completed all the data and studies necessary for a second stage,” the environmentalist said.

Supporters and opponents spoke before the EIA case committee during the four-hour meeting.

Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU) Changhua Chapter chairman Tsai Chia-yang (蔡嘉陽) said that the reclaimed land — a project ordered by former Changhua County commissioner Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) — had been undertaken to alleviate severe subsidence problems in the area.

“More land will need to be reclaimed to build the industrial park and seaport, but that will worsen the subsidence instead of alleviating it,” he said.

TEPU Changhua Chapter director Shih Yueh-ying (施月英) said a consensus had been reached during the National Energy Conference in April to make the nation’s petrochemical industry meet Taiwan’s energy needs without producing products for export.

“I would be okay with the idea of reclaiming land for survival, but reclaiming land for a sunset industry like petrochemicals is unacceptable,” she said.

Former EIA panelist Lee Ken-cheng (李根政) turned to the health risks the project poses to area residents, saying that while local residents had high hopes the development would bring economic prosperity, they could be disappointed.

“The factory will only bring economic prosperity to a handful of local government officials and Kuokuang’s management. The number of jobs may not be as high as local residents think. CPC Corp, Taiwan’s Kaohsiung plant only has 1,700 employees,” Lee said.

“The proposed plant could even hire foreign labor for up to 50 percent of its work force, which means local residents would not really benefit,” he said.

Residents had not considered the health risks and environmental costs, he said.

“Near the Sixth Naphtha Cracker plant in Yunlin County, the cancer rate for females is 15 times the national average,” Lee said.

“In 1987, former Ilan County commissioner Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) rejected Formosa Plastic Group’s proposal to build the Sixth Naphtha Cracker in his county, and now Ilan has become a tourism hotspot. In contrast, Yunlin County is the poorest county in the country and it has the nation’s highest cancer rate,” he said.

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