EIA meet rejects naphtha cracker expansion

CONFUSION::The EPA head said that conflicting reports on some plants’ emission levels need to be straightened out for the project review to continue

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - Page 3

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) general assembly meeting yesterday rejected an expansion plan for the nation’s sixth naphtha cracker complex due to confusion about the current level of air pollution from the plant.

Before the meeting was held at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in the afternoon, environmentalists and Democratic Progressive Party legislators Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) and Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) protested against the expansion, saying that they suspect that one of the operators at the complex — Chang Chun Group — provided false statistics about its emission levels.

“Unless Chang Chun can provide evidence that its expansion plan can reduce air pollution levels, we cannot allow it to continue expanding to increase its profits while sacrificing the public’s health,” Tien said.

She added that the government should also re-evaluate the nation’s policies toward the petrochemical industry, because Taiwan is not a oil-producing country.

During the meeting, Chang Chun presented a report showing that it plans to increase the production capacity of a few plants, while reducing existing plants’ emissions of air pollutants, greenhouse gases and wastewater by at least 1 to 2 times.

However, Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) questioned whether Chang Chun under-reported emission levels over the past few years, as data provided by the local government showed that the company reported zero emissions from the tanks, but its new expansion plan states that these facilities will emit 20.5 tonnes of volatile organic compounds (VOC) each year.

Yunlin County Environmental Protection Union chairman Chang Tsu-chien (張子見) said the group suspects that emissions from the plant has already surpassed allowable levels and that the EIA committee members should be responsible for making sure that the data in the expansion plan proposal are correct.

The environmentalist also provided an epidemiological survey report that showed higher crude cancer incidence rates in the nearby area after the plants began operating, and urged that no more expansion should be allowed.

A representative of the company said the zero VOC emission level was because of improvements made at the facilities.

However, during the closed-doors deliberation period, an EIA committee member said the emission readings were different from those provided by Chang Chun during the meeting.

EPA Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) concluded that the confusion about the plant’s current emissions needed to be cleared up before the EPA’s Inspection Bureau, Bureau of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control and the Yunlin County environmental protection bureau could move forward.