The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday said that it was committed to improving waste reduction efforts by increasing revenue from fines.
EPA Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) told a budget review meeting in the legislature that the agency plans to increase revenue by NT$10 million to NT$21.97 million (US$319 million to US$701.6 million) by penalizing plants producing excessive emissions.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said during a question-and-answer session with Wei that the EPA’s proposed sum for the next fiscal year is NT$50 million less than what it proposed for this year.
The drastic difference between the numbers could mean that the EPA is planning to intercede on behalf of firms that violate emissions rules, Chao said.
Chao said the difference shows that the EPA lacks the resolve to crack down on violators and asked that the proposed revenue be increased.
Wei said that the smaller estimated revenue was a result of foreseeable delays that occur when the agency issues fines, with decisions almost certainly to be appealed in administrative courts.
Department of Water Quality Director Hsu Yung-hsing (許永興) said penalties for delayed payments of wastewater taxes would bring an estimated NT$2 million in revenue.
“Judging from the EPA’s experience with collecting taxes and fees, more than 300 of the 5,154 operators in the science and industrial parks that are to be regulated are likely to delay paying the tax,” he said.
The draft rules on the water pollution prevention tax, scheduled to take effect in February, say that plants which delay paying the tax can be fined from NT$6,000 to NT$300,000.
DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said the EPA should further increase the portion of its estimated revenue by taking into account fines expected from air polluters, referring to an initiative on control of air pollutants, also scheduled to be implemented in February.
Wei pledged to raise the agency’s estimated revenue from penalties, including those expected from soil, water and air, by NT$10 million.
Lin also brought up a September incident, in which a land owner allegedly mixed furnace dregs produced by smelters operated by China Steel Corp into soil in farmland in Greater Kaohsiung’s Cishan District (旗山), sparking worries over potential soil contamination.
Lin asked Wei why the EPA has not yet published a report on its investigation into the incident.
Wei said that the report is nearing completion, but its content needed revising to make it more accurate. The document will be out by tomorrow, he said.
Wei said the EPA’s samples showed that the furnace dregs were mainly calcium oxide — a highly alkaline substance that is the main component of furnace dregs.
The concentration of dioxins, previously the major concern in relation with the incident, were at background values, indicating that the soil is not contaminated by dioxins.
Wei said that to determine the likelihood of contamination, further environmental forensic tasks are required, for example deeper excavation, to obtain a better understanding of the soil’s components.
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