Mon, Oct 25, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Hearing on Kuokuang is not necessary, MOEA says

Staff Writer, with CNA

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) dismissed an allegation over the weekend that its decision not to hold an administrative hearing on a controversial plan to build the country’s eighth naphtha cracker on coastal wetlands in central Taiwan was illegal.

The private investment project initiated by Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (KPTC) does not require approval from the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Industrial Development Bureau, bureau director-general Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said in a telephone interview.

“Since no approval is required, there is no need for the ministry to hold an administrative hearing,” he said.

His remarks came one day after a professor demanded that the ministry hold an administrative hearing on the investment project in line with the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法).

More than 1,200 university professors and academics have expressed opposition to the project and on Aug. 3 released a joint petition stating their objections. They vowed to demonstrate next month if the ministry fails to organize an -administrative hearing.

The ministry said that it organized a public hearing on the environmental impact of the project in February in Changhua County, where the plant is to be located.

The Environmental Protection Administration is now conducting an assessment of the environmental impact of the proposed plant, it said. KPTC, a joint venture by the state-owned oil refinery CPC Corp, Taiwan and several private companies, plans to invest up to NT$400 billion (US$12.66 billion) to construct a 4,000-hectare petrochemical complex on Changhua County’s coastal wetlands near the estuary of the Jhuoshui River (濁水溪).

Environmentalists strongly oppose the project, saying that it will hurt the area’s ecosystem, which includes migratory birds, fiddler crabs, mudskippers, mud shrimps and the almost-extinct Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin.

The ministry said the project is would generate revenue of about NT$460 billion and create 18,000 jobs directly and 357,000 jobs indirectly. The bureau said it supports the establishment of the plant to replace the aging fifth naphtha cracker on environmental grounds.

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