The legislature yesterday held a public hearing to discuss whether laws should be amended to prevent more accidents at Formosa Plastics Corp’s sixth naphtha cracker in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County.
At a meeting of the Health, Environment and Social Welfare Committee, specialists and governmental officials discussed how the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防法) and Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性化學物質管理法) could be amended to address the problematic plant.
There have been a series of fires at the complex in the past year, including two last month.
Starting with a fire on July 7 last year, close to 10 incidents have been reported at the complex, a situation that represents a threat to local residents, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) said.
The incidents at the complex are causing serious environmental pollution and have exposed problems in both the government’s industry supervision and the management at the plant.
Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) said dealing with the frequent accidents at the complex were beyond the ability of local government in terms of financial resources, manpower and authority.
Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), a professor at the Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene at National Taiwan University, said that when facing large petrochemical corporations with a heavy carbon footprint that threatens public health, such as the plant in Mailiao, the current “self-management mechanism” should be replaced by compulsory administration by the government.
After about three hours of discussion, a consensus was reached on asking Cabinet agencies to submit legal amendments or enforcement and preventative rules before the legislative session resumes in September.
They also demanded that the Ministry of Economic Affairs monitor the plant and present a total pipeline renewal plan and implementation schedule before the next legislative session begins.
Cabinet agencies were also asked to regularly force plants to shut down for inspection and to set up an independent investigation board such as the US’ Chemical Safety Board (CSB), an independent federal agency tasked with investigating industrial chemical accidents to protect workers, the public and the environment.
The CSB’s members are appointed by the US president and confirmed by the US Senate.
It was also requested that an inter-ministerial board be created to monitor and control the complicated issues related to petrochemical industry, which those at the hearing said was beyond the control and ability of local governments.