A proposed amendment to the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法) underwent a preliminary review in the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday, with lawmakers unanimously agreeing to raise the penalties regarding the illegal discharge of wastewater into rivers.
The amendment was proposed after Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc (ASE) was found illegally discharging industrial wastewater into the Houjin River (後勁溪) last year. However, the multibillion-dollar corporation was fined just NT$600,000 (US$19,800) based on the current act, which some said was disproportionate to the crime.
Under the proposal by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), the penalty for illegal wastewater discharge would be raised from between NT$60,000 and NT$600,000 to between NT$60,000 and NT$20 million.
Additionally, managers of cited companies could be sentenced to seven years in prison, up from three years under the current act. A person found guilty, according to the act, could be sentenced to five years in jail, which is not stipulated in the current act.
The amendment also requires firms to pay back any illegal gains obtained from the unlawful wastewater discharge, on top of penalties. A “whistle-blowers’ clause” would be included as well, to encourage people to report such crimes.
Although the EPA has raised the fine to 30 times what is levied under the current act, some lawmakers sought more severe penalties.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) proposed that a corporation pay 10 percent of its annual corporate revenue in the previous year if its illegal gains exceed the maximum fine in the act.
The government can also ask the corporation at fault to pay for irreparable damage done to the environment, if the amendment passes.
Others lawmakers proposed to raise the maximum penalty to NT$50 million or NT$100 million, while some suggested that the cap for the fine be removed.
EPA Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥), who took office earlier this month, said that lawmakers agreed that the government should set harsher penalties for corporations discharging wastewater illegally.
“I believe we can talk about the maximum fine that can be imposed upon corporations,” Wei said.
The committee decided to schedule further review of the amendment.