Academia Sinica bashes EPA’s EIA review system

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 3

Academia Sinica’s critique that the nation’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) is inefficient is not fair, an Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) official said in response to a report on Taiwan’s economic development presented by the academy Thursday.

The report says that the nation’s EIA system is strange because it is conducted by the EPA, rather than by agencies supervising development projects, such as the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Only Taiwan and China have adopted this system, the report says, adding that the process is time-consuming, given that from 1995 to 2011 the EPA averaged 300 days per project review.

“EIA review defers economic development and investment, which is no longer limited to projects that are ‘unfriendly to the environment’ but has created a widespread effect,” it says.

The EPA’s committee reviewers are granted the right to veto development projects, Sinica’s Institute of Economics distinguished researcher Peng Shin-kun (彭信坤) said, yet they need not be responsible for their decisions, which could affect national policies.

“Committee reviewers possess a power that rivals that of other ministers and even the premier,” he said, adding that many wind farm and natural gas projects have become encumbered by EIA issues.

The right to veto a project should return to the supervising agencies, or at least the EPA committee’s conclusion should be parallel to that of the supervising agency, with the premier or a minister without portfolio making the final decision, Peng said.

Abolishing the EPA committee’s veto is a long-term goal that cannot be achieved at this stage, EPA Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) said on Facebook on Sept. 21, following the agency’s launch of a draft amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法).

An EIA review can be sped up if a developer’s report is clear and accurate, he said.

It is unfair to ascribe all delays to the agency’s committee review, EPA Department of Comprehensive Planning Director-General Liu Tsung-yung (劉宗勇) said on Thursday, adding that the so-called “300 days” included periods when developers presented additional documentation and supervising agencies clarified policies.

The EPA has begun to limit committee reviews to between 6 months and one year and to limit committee meetings to three per project, he said.