The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) defended Environmental Review Committee (ERC) members yesterday amid allegations they had colluded with construction companies to approve proposals.
During an interpellation session in the legislature last Friday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Fu Kun-chi (傅焜萁) suggested that six out of the 11 ERC members responsible for reviewing the construction proposal for the Heping coal-burning power plant in Hualien County had taken cash to approve the project. Fu noted that the six also served on the review committee for the Suhua Freeway proposal.
"Considering the speed at which the Heping case was passed, compared with the hold-up for the Suhua Freeway case, one could suspect that the committee members had received kickbacks from developers," local media reports quoted him as saying.
"If [Fu] is trying to say that money had changed hands under the table for the Heping case, we can immediately request a legal investigation," Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) was quoted as telling Fu in response.
Minister of the Environmental Protection Administration Winston Dang (陳重信) condemned Fu at a press conference yesterday for "a poor demonstration of the power of public influence."
"The allegations legislator Fu made about committee members is an insult to their integrity. The members are all professionals and academics in the field of environmental impact review and they follow legal regulations in the review process," Dang said.
"While we respect all the speculation legislators may make ... after an ERC committee is selected, the members should have the liberty to review construction cases independently, even if their decisions upset the supporters or opponents of the Suhua case," he said.
Dang's comments same on the same day the Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau, in accordance with the Suhua ERC's request, filed additional information on the construction proposal.
The committee must meet within one week of receipt of that information, and if the members consider the submission sufficient, a final decision may finally be made in the 11-year-old case.
Asked by reporters whether the Suhua ERC would continue reviewing the case, or postpone it because of the possible investigations of its members, Dang said that he respected the committee members and would leave the decision up to them.
Should the review process move ahead as scheduled, the committee could reach a decision at a meeting on Monday. If that happens, the Suhua case would see its final verdict from the EPA as soon as next month, Dang said.
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