Thu, Sep 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Lai’s administration could restrict EPA’s reforms, deputy minister says

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

William Lai’s (賴清德) administration might be more inclined toward economic development, which could restrict room for environmental reforms, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) said on Tuesday.

Soon after Premier Lin Chuan (林全) on Monday declared his intention to step down, Chan also announced he would resign from his position, regardless of whether Lai were to retain him.

Lai’s administration is likely to be more economically oriented, especially if Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) is to remain in the new Cabinet, Chan said.

Lai’s refusal to enter the Tainan City Council chambers in 2015 is a concern because it means he does not respect democratic principles, Chan said.

Despite the unexpected Cabinet reshuffle, the legal framework for improving air pollution and environmental assessment procedures — Chan’s key objectives — are almost in place, he said.

The EPA held three public hearings on draft amendments to the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法) last month and is about to send it for legislative review, he said.

New “hazardous air pollutant standards” to tax companies emitting stationary pollution are to be launched by the end of this month.

“We have identified 29 air pollutants to be taxed, including heavy metals emitted by coal-fired power plants, and benzene and vinyl chloride monomer by petrochemical facilities,” he said.

The new standards would regulate companies such as Taiwan Power Co, Formosa Plastic Group and CPC Corp, Taiwan, among others, he said, refuting some environmental groups’ assertions that the EPA dared not to touch big polluting companies.

More significantly, the long-expected draft amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法) was finalized late last month and is due to be published this month, he said.

In the unpublished draft, the EPA identified development projects that should undergo a strategic environmental assessment (SEA), which would need to be ratified by the Executive Yuan instead of being stalled in ministries as it now the case.

“Developments that involve massive land exploitation would have to undergo a SEA,” he said, adding that the draft includes a new chapter on SEA’s procedures.

Agencies that oversee developers are to be held accountable for environmental impact assessment procedures under the amendment, Chan said.

“The agencies would be required to account for the developers’ reports, rather than just delivering the documents to the EPA,” he said.

However, whether the changes would be implemented depends on Lai and his vice premier, Chan said.

“Lin Chuan’s greatest merit is that he has no political ambition,” an environmental activist said yesterday on condition of anonymity, adding Lin has given the EPA and the Council of Agriculture (COA) latitude to promote reforms.

The EPA’s amendments to the acts, as well as the COA’s plan to demolish illegal facilities on farmland are more uncertain now, the activist said.

After a private talk with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday, Chan was persuaded to continue in his position, as was COA Deputy Minster Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), who had also said he wanted to resign.

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