Environmental groups yesterday clashed with a Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp workers’ union in front of the Changhua County Government building over the company’s use of bituminous coal, a substance that makes a significant contribution to air pollution.
The company owns and runs an industrial complex that includes fabrics factories and a coal power plant in Changhua.
Operations at the coal plant could be suspended if it fails to renew its license by the end of next month, but environmentalists said the renewal should not be allowed because the plant produces excessive sulfides.
Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp workers staged a protest against the Changhua Environmental Protection Bureau, which they said rejected the company’s renewal applications several times because of pressure from environmental groups.
The company is required to use coal that has a sulfur content of less than 0.87 percent, according to an environmental permit issued to the company in 1999, but Changhua County Environmental Protection Union secretary-general Shih Yueh-ying (施月英) said the company never submitted data, suggesting that it could not meet the standard.
The bureau said the sulfur content of the coal used by the plant is 1.1 percent.
However, union director Liu Hsin-hua (劉興華) said the plant’s emissions are in accordance with legal standards, adding that the bureau conducted 15 plant inspections from May to last month, but found no emissions violations.
“The county government should review the renewal application independent of the influence of environmental groups to protect workers’ rights,” Liu said.
“The issuing and renewal of operation licenses has to follow environmental regulations, not the opinions of environmentalists,” Liu added.
“The bureau is simply doing its job. Plant workers who believe they are being abused [by environmental groups] are delusional,” Fight for Health Women’s Group Changhua Chapter director Yen Shu-nu (顏淑女) said.
Bureau spokesman Huang Wei-hsiang (黃維祥) said it is reviewing another renewal application, but the company did not submit data about the sulfur content of the bituminous coals it uses.
If the plant fails to meet the standards required, its license cannot be renewed, Huang said.
Past inspections might not have included sulfur content tests, and the bureau is still investigating why it has been excluded for the past 17 years, Huang said.
The county government in April designated the complex a “special industrial zone,” making the complex subject to stricter environmental monitoring.
The county council last month passed an air pollution bylaw, which, if approved by the Environmental Protection Administration, would effectively ban factories from using all fossil fuels except natural gas, Huang said.
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