Fri, Jun 26, 2015 - Page 3 News List

FPG wins lawsuit over ash fines

CITY AFFIRMED?Legal experts said that the ruling was a nod to the Tainan City Government, indicating the company breached environmental protection rules

By Huang Liang-chieh and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A man points to mound of ash produced by Formosa Plastics Group’s naphtha cracker in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township in an undated photograph.

Photo: Huang Shu-li, Taipei Times

The Kaohsiung High Administrative Court yesterday ruled in favor of Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) in an lawsuit against fines imposed by the Tainan City Government over alleged improper dealing with ash produced by FPG’s naphtha cracker in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮).

The court said the city government had to shoulder all legal costs for the case.

The municipality’s Environmental Protection Bureau found 54,771.2 tonnes of bottom ash and fly ash in a bureau resource stacking site with pH rates ranging from 12.47 to 12.53, court spokesperson Chiu Cheng-chiang (邱政強) said.

The strong alkaline content was beyond the facility’s environmental assimilative capacity and might pollute soil in the area in the long term, Chiu said, adding that the bureau’s order for FPG to ameliorate the situation had public welfare in mind.

The main reason for the court’s ruling was due to the bureau classifying the ash as industrial waste and issuing separate fines of varying amounts for a single violation, Chiu said.

The city government fined FPG NT$141.9 million (US$4.57 million) over breaches of the Waste Disposal Act (廢物清理法), a decision the company appealed, Chiu said.

However, the city government also fined FPG NT$142 million and an additional NT$6,000 over income gained from the disposal, Chiu said.

The second set of fines was a clear breach of rules against vindictive sentencing, especially since the city government issued them after the plaintiff had appealed, Chiu said.

The city government was within its rights to determine whether bottom ash and fly ash were industrial waste or by-products of the naphtha cracker’s operations, the court said.

The city government’s ruling that the ash is industrial waste and not the by-products of naphtha cracking was upheld despite the court’s ruling, while legal experts say the ruling is a tacit nod to the city government that FPG violated environmental protection laws.

The bureau said the incident would be used as a reference in similar cases.

Even if the ash is registered as a by-product, improper disposal can still be punished in the form of a fine according to the act, the bureau said, adding that in severe cases, companies might be ordered to halt production or even suspend business altogether.

Additional reporting by Tsai Ying

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