Amid criticism of a lack of accountability among government agencies dealing with the Greater Kaohsiung gas pipeline explosions, a former professor of agricultural economics at National Taiwan University said the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the city government both bear responsibility for the pipeline leak that triggered the blasts.
Hsieh Chih-cheng (謝志誠) on Sunday posted a 14-page presentation on Facebook of what he says are the relevant laws covering such a disaster, adding that his review showed that both the ministry and the city bear some of the blame.
Titled "Only You and I have no Clue Where the Pipelines Are," the file began with: “Stop passing the buck!”
The file showed that among a series of acts governing the city’s underground pipeline network, Article 27 of the Urban Road Act (市區道路條例) states that where necessary, project administrators seeking to conduct road excavation projects should apply for a permit from the agency that manages the roads.
Article 4 of the Kaohsiung City Regulations on Road Excavation Management and Autonomy (高雄市道路挖掘管理自治條例) states that pipeline operators should acquire a permit issued by the authorities before they are allowed to commence any projects.
Hsieh said that based on these two acts, the city government should know about the underground pipelines installed by petrochemical companies in the city.
He also cited Article 31 of the Petroleum Administration Act (石油管理法), which states that where necessary, oil refinery operators that lay pipelines under roadways shall gain the approval of the central governing authorities and the agency in charge of the land.
Hsieh said the pipelines should be mapped by the central and city governments.
He also cited Article 32, which stipulates that governing authorities should set up a database archiving the layout of the pipeline distribution, as well as a drawing of the complete pipeline network.
As to who should be in charge of rescue missions in the case of a disaster caused by gas and fuel pipelines, Hsieh cited Article 3 of the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act (災害防救法), which lists the Ministry of Economic Affairs as the governing authority in such cases.
The authorities should stop shifting responsibility and amend the laws governing pipelines to make them more comprehensive, he said.
“I am only trying to help by listing the laws and regulations related to pipelines. It is up to the government to interpret whether any of these laws applies to propene leaks,” Hsieh said. “Who can guarantee that propene was the only leaked gas that caused the blasts?”
“Taiwan has a long history of petrochemical production and trading, and I do not think this is the right time to be passing the buck because it only begs the question: Why is my government behaving the way it does?” he said.