Yunlin County-based environmental campaigner Wu Sung-lin (吳松霖) yesterday accused the county government’s Environmental Protection Bureau of shutting the public out of a meeting it held to review a permit renewal application for two coal-fired power plants at the naphtha cracker complex run by Formosa Plastics Group (FPG).
The meeting attended by bureau officials and Formosa Plastics representatives on Tuesday reportedly saw members of the public denied entry by bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Chiao-wei (張喬維), who allegedly threatened to call off the meeting if residents did not leave.
Wu criticized the bureau’s handling of the meeting, saying that Formosa Plastics was the party being scrutinized and that the bureau had compromised the fairness of the meeting by inviting the company.
He asked Yunlin County Commissioner Lee Ching-yung (李進勇) to uncover the bureau’s intention for the secretive meeting.
Permits for two Formosa Plastics power plants to burn petroleum coke and bituminous coal are set to expire on Sunday next week and next month.
Residents living close to the naphtha cracker attribute what they said was a growing prevalence of cancer in the region to emissions from the factory, an observation backed by research conducted by National Taiwan University Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene professor Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) at the behest of the county government.
Although committee members reviewing the application ruled that data on the amount of soft coal used and concentrations of heavy metals generated by the facilities provided by Formosa Plastics was insufficient, they resolved to extend the plants’ permits for six months.
Lee later that day overruled the resolution, asking Formosa Plastics to improve its data and submit them to the bureau for another review.
On a county bylaw banning the use of petroleum coke and soft coal, which was passed by the Yunlin County Government last month and is pending registration by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), Wu said that if the county enforces the bylaw without gaining the approval of the central government, it would likely be sued by Formosa Plastics.
Citing the Basic Environmental Act (環境基本法), which states that the central government should assist local governments in realizing self-governance by enforcing measures to protect the environment, he said that the EPA should support the local legislation instead of opposing it.
EPA Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) on Tuesday published an article in the Chinese-language China Times, in which he described a string of draft bylaws — including the petroleum coke and coal ban passed by Yunlin — as attempts at “bogus” local governance.
He said that bylaws that contravene central government laws would be vetoed by the Executive Yuan.
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