Thu, Jan 23, 2020 - Page 4 News List

Taichung mayor slams EPA for ‘nightmare’ step

Staff writer, with CNA

The Taichung Power Plant is pictured in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of the Taichung City Government

Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) on Tuesday criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approving the construction of two new natural gas-fired generators at Taichung Power Plant.

The agency approved an environmental impact assessment for the new generators at a five-hour meeting on Monday, sparking criticism not only from Lu, but also the Changhua, Nantou and Miaoli county commissioners.

At a Taichung City Government meeting, Lu slammed the agency for allowing the plant to build new generators while continuing to operate the 10 coal-fired generators it already has, and likened the decision to a “nightmare scenario.”

“We will not accept this,” Lu said.

Representatives from Taichung, Changhua and Nantou who attended the meeting all called for the plant to remove four coal-fired generators if the new natural gas-fired generators are to be built, Lu said.

The central government continues to do as it pleases, without any concern for public opinion, Lu said.

The fossil fuel-dependent plant, one of the largest of its kind in the world, is operated by state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower), and was fined on multiple occasions last year by the Taichung City Government for coal use contraventions.

The plant is the largest stationary pollution source in Taichung, Lu said.

The agency’s decision showed “complete disregard for the health and lives of the people of Changhua,” Changhua County Commissioner Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) said in a statement.

Miaoli County Commissioner Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌) said that although natural gas is a cleaner energy source, the new generators would still worsen air pollution in central Taiwan, a point echoed by Nantou County Commissioner Lin Ming-chen (林明溱).

Taipower said in a statement on Monday that after the two new generators are activated, four of the 10 coal-fired generators would gradually become backups, and would only be operated under specific circumstances.

The two and six combination would allow the plant to reduce its emissions of air pollutants by 64 to 72 percent, Taipower said.

The backup generators would only be used between April and September — when air pollution is less serious — when air quality is rated “good” or “moderate” on the EPA’s air quality index and when the operating reserve margin is below 8 percent, Taipower said.

Only two of the four generators would be activated at the same time under such circumstances, it said.

Taipower said that it was not retiring the generators because they could still be of use during emergency situations, and that it would be “unsuitable” to retire them before they reach the required age.

The company would also have to abide by stricter conditions listed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs when running the plant’s other coal-fired units.

It is allowed to operate more than six coal-fired generators together for only 240 hours per year, and it can only run 10 generators — coal-fired and natural gas-fired — simultaneously.

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