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

Since the presidential and legislative elections in January, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became the ruling party in the executive and the majority in the legislature, and it now has an obligation to coordinate environmental legislation across national and local levels of government, Yeh said.

Changhua County Environmental Protection Union secretary-general Shih Yueh-ying (施月英) said that the government had not responded to local regulations submitted by the Changhua County Government, in spite of those regulations having been submitted in early August this year.

Changhua County government has been pushing for more stringent regulations, but it appears that EPA Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) or his subordinates are obstructing the process, Yeh said.

“They must think they can treat us like toddlers if they mean to tell us the minister is not too busy to wheel and deal with Formosa Chemicals & Fiber Corps (台灣化學纖維), but has no time for Changhua’s self-governing regulations,” Yeh added.

Homemaker Union Consumer Co-Op Taichung Chapter president Hsu Hsin-hsin (許心欣) said Taichung’s self-governing regulations were submitted to the national government almost a year ago, but the authorities had not got back to local officials or clean-air activists.

Hsu was also skeptical of the national administration and pointed to the EPA and the Executive Yuan as the chief obstacles in passing clean-air regulations: “They did not dare to make a decision prior to the [governmental handover] on May 20 and they do not dare to make decisions now. The national government has blatantly failed to do its job,” she said.

The clean-air controversy indicates the tenuous communication between the government on the local and national levels, said Hsu, adding that the Ministry of Economic Affairs or the EPA had done nothing to prioritize the purchasing of electric power from gas-fired rather than coal-fired plants, a measure activists believe would help curb pollution.

Although Formosa Chemical & Fiber’s coal-fired power plants in Changhua have been shut down, heavy pollution — particularly airborne particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less (PM2.5) — has persisted, as evidenced by the EPA’s severe pollution warnings last month, because there are a multitude of polluters operating in the central region, Tsuang said.

In addition to a coal-fired power plant operated by Formosa Chemical & Fiber’s coal-fired power plant in Changhua, other contributors to heavy-pollution in the central region include plants owned by the Dragon Steel Corp (中龍鋼鐵) in Taichung, the Taichung Power Plant, power plants owned by Formosa Petrochemical’s naphtha cracker in Yunlin and others, Tsuang said.

According to his computer modeling, terminating power generation by major coal-fired plants, such as Taichung Power Plant and the Formosa Petrochemical’s plant, would have an immediate and significant effect in improving air quality in Taichung, Changhua, Nantou and Yunlin counties, Tsuang said.

After shuttering Formosa Chemical & Fiber, advocates have set their sights on the region’s other leading polluters and especially the Taichung Power Plant, Hsu said, adding that advocates would hold its operators to account for honoring their pledge to reduce coal consumption and the percentage of power generated by coal.

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