The responsibility for the pipelines that transport petrochemical products in Greater Kaohsiung lies with the city government, Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chuyn (孫立群) said yesterday.
“It is clear where the responsibility lies,” Sun said as he displayed a copy of the Rules Governing Pipelines Installment and Road Evacuations of Greater Kaohsiung (高雄市道路挖掘埋設管線管理辦法) to reporters.
With those rules, which have been in place since 1988, “the Greater Kaohsiung City Government holds in its hands the power to regulate [pipeline companies],” Sun said.
The fatal gas pipeline explosions that took place on Thursday night and Friday morning last week highlighted the lack of oversight for pipeline safety in the nation.
Twenty-eight people were killed in the blasts and 309 injured, while two people are listed as missing.
Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) told a press conference on Monday that there had not been any checks to test the integrity of the pipeline that is suspected of being the source of the gas leak since it was installed 20 years ago.
That pipeline is owned by the LYC Chemical Corp.
Responsibility for pipelines carrying petrochemical products falls outside the ministry’s authority because the Petroleum Administration Act (石油管理法), for which the ministry is the regulatory agency, only applies to the petroleum refinery industry, not the petrochemical industry.
Petrochemical company operators need permission from the Kaohsiung government to place a pipeline in the special municipality and they are under oversight of the city government during construction of such pipelines, Sun said.
The companies are also required to present plans to test and maintain pipeline safety at the beginning of each year to the city government, the spokesperson said.
Pipeline owners can be fined between NT$30,000 and NT$100,000 for installing a pipeline without a permit, and from NT$20,000 to NT$80,000 each time the company is found to have failed to comply with the rules for testing and maintenance of pipeline safety, he said.
The latter fine can be imposed repeatedly until the violation is corrected, Sun said.