Tue, Dec 20, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Central regions demand national action on air pollution

GrassrootsLocal governments said they sent draft regulations to the EPA for approval under the Ma and the Tsai administrations that have yet to be acknowledged

By Yang Mien-chieh and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The view from a high vantage point in Taichung on Oct. 20 shows the smog over the city.

Photo: Liao Yao-tung, Taipei Times

The national government should implement rigorous and uniform standards for air pollution regulation to end the confusion over multiple regulatory systems at the state level, experts and environmental groups said in response to controversies regarding coal-fired power plants in Taiwan’s central region.

Last year, six county and city-level governments in the central region signed an agreement to ban petroleum coke and bituminous coal-fired power plants — among them the Taichung, Yunlin and Changhua governments that passed regulations to step up environmental regulations.

In May last year, the Yunlin County Council passed self-governing regulations to ban bituminous coal and petroleum coke in Yunlin, and it is estimated the rules would have reduced the annual emission of oxides by 5,595 tonnes or 40 percent, airborne particles by 757 tonnes, or 73 percent, and nitrogen oxides by 8,200 tonnes, or 53 percent.

Then-president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) blocked the regulations, on grounds that they did not conform to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) and the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣汙染防制法).

After President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May, the EPA in September this year approved Yunlin County Government’s revision of local environmental regulations — the first emissions standards to be crafted by a local government and scheduled to come into affect in April next year — that restricts emissions limits for power generation plants.

According to the Yunlin County Power Facility Air-Pollutant Emission Standards, the maximum allowable suspended particles in emissions has been reduced from 28 milligrams per cubic meter to 15 milligrams per cubic meter, sulfur oxides from 86 parts per million to 25 parts per million, nitrogen oxides from 101 parts per million to 46 parts per million.

The Taichung City Government in December last year filed its self-governing regulations to control bituminous coal use and ban petroleum coke use in public and private places, but the Executive Yuan has not given any formal response.

The target set by Taichung’s regulations is to reduce sulfur oxides by 6,052 tonnes per year and to reduce petroleum coke use by 40 percent in four years.

Changhua County Council in July passed self-governing regulations for the use of heavily polluting fuels in public and private places that was filed with the EPA for approval in August; the standards specified by Changhua are more rigorous than Yunlin County’s.

Air pollution and higher rates of cancer in the nation’s central region correlate with the presence of the coal-fired units of the Taichung Power Plant complex, Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s (台塑石化公司) naphtha cracker and other industrial facilities, National Chung Hsing University environmental engineering professor Tsuang Ben-jei (莊秉潔) said.

Tsuang said local governments were compelled to take the initiative in regulating air pollution because of government inaction in confronting the problem and the lack of uniformity in local standards reflects uneven regional development.

Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance convener Yeh Guang-peng (葉光芃) said that in the past, local governments had been more aggressive in regulating air pollution because they were less insulated from popular pressure than the national government, formerly under the leadership of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration.

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