The person who green-lighted the installation of the gas pipelines implicated in last week’s explosions in Greater Kaohsiung was Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said yesterday, urging investigators to immediately summon Wu for questioning.
Wu was mayor of the then-Kaohsiung City 24 years ago when the pipelines were laid, Chen said.
Pointing to a copy of a government document, Chen said that Wu gave state-run oil company CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC) approval to build the pipelines under Kaisyuan, Yisin and Sanduo roads in 1990.
“The Petroleum Administration Act (石油管理法) stipulates that the central government is in charge of sanctioning the installation of petroleum pipelines as the local government’s authority over the pipes only exists because it is in charge of the roads under which the pipes run,” Chen said.
Since Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) believes otherwise and has said local governments have the mandate to approve such projects, investigative agencies should immediately question Wu as to why he allowed the CPC to install the pipelines under downtown streets and investigate whether there had been malfeasance involved, Chen said.
A series of explosions that occurred along 4km of Cianjhen (前鎮) and Lingya (苓雅) districts on Thursday night and Friday morning last week killed 28 people and injured 309.
However, Wu later rebutted Chen’s allegations, saying that when he was mayor in 1990, “the approval was given to CPC by the Kaohsiung City Government, in accordance with the law.”
“There was absolutely no way I was the one who green-lighted the project. It must have been the pipe management division under the city’s Public Works Bureau, which still exists today,” he said.
Petrochemical firm LCY Chemical Corp, which is allegedly the operator of the pipeline that leaked the gas that caused the explosions, acquired Taiwan Polypropylene Co — one of the four petrochemical firms that entrusted CPC with updating their pipelines under Kaohsiung’s streets more than two decades ago — in 2006.
“If a car was purchased by someone in 1990 and then sold to another person in 2006, before crashing on the street more than a decade later, would anyone blame the first owner of the vehicle for the accident?” the vice president said.
However, he said Greater Kaohsiung prosecutors are working to determine the parties responsible for the explosions and that he would not try to evade responsibility should he be found at fault.