Thousands of protesters yesterday rallied in Changhua against Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp, saying that its coal-fired power plant in the city causes serious air pollution.
About 3,000 people, some wearing shackles and chains, marched across the city to the front of the Changhua County Hall, demanding that the county government reject the company’s license renewal application and shut its coal-fired power plant ahead of the Sept. 28 renewal deadline.
The Changhua County Council in July passed a bylaw to enforce more stringent emissions standards to improve air quality by effectively banning petroleum coke and bituminous coal.
The company’s power plant, which uses bituminous coal, accounts for about 60 percent of the county’s coal consumption.
The Changhua County Government has repeatedly rejected the company’s license renewal applications, and organizers of the rally said they wanted to press the county government to stand firm on its pollution reduction policies.
Organizers said a signature collection campaign launched on Sept. 10 had collected more than 10,000 signatures, and it would be continued until Sept. 28.
Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance convener Yeh Guang-peng (葉光芃) said the number of people who took part in the rally highlights the seriousness of air pollution in the county.
Politicians across party lines showed up to give their support, including New Power Party legislators Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) and Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Su-yueh (陳素月) and former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Chen Chieh (陳杰).
“The company has filed a renewal application 28 times, and the county government rejected it 28 times. The county government will commission legal and environmental experts to review the application when the company files it again,” said Changhua County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), a DPP member.
The rally was largely peaceful, although there was a scuffle with police after Wei returned to the county hall.
He did not directly respond to protesters’ demands, but again explained the county government’s review process.
The county government later issued a statement saying it plans to remove the company’s facility from the city to make the city coal-free, as the county’s PM2.5 levels — fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers — have exceeded the legal limit.
The county government reiterated that it has the most stringent emission standards in the nation, saying it would review Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp’s renewal application according to those standards.
The firm issued a statement saying industrial emissions are not the major source of PM2.5 in the county, and that traffic emissions and pollution from other cities and counties has a more significant affect.
Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp said it has invested billions of New Taiwan dollars in pollution prevention measures and its emissions are in accordance with national standards.
Nearly 1,000 company employees, all of them Changhua residents, would lose their jobs if the county rejects the company’s renewal application again, the firm said, calling on the county to renew its operating permit.
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