Activists yesterday urged the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to reject the Central Taiwan Science Park’s Houli expansion project during an environmental impact assessment (EIA) meeting next week, warning they would file a lawsuit to overturn the decision and cause more losses to investing firms.
Although a court ruling in January revoked the EIA granted in 2006 for construction of the complex in Houli Township (后里), Taichung County, following a lawsuit filed by environmental groups three years ago, the EPA said that as the court only revoked the result of the EIA, the Houli project does not have to go through the whole EIA process again.
On Wednesday, the EPA gave its initial approval in an EIA meeting — considered a “continuing meeting” — and is expected to make a final decision on Tuesday.
“The meeting should not [result in] approval for such a controversial project. [If it does] we will again file an appeal to overturn the decision in court,” Lin San-chia (林三加), a lawyer representing the environmentalists, told a press conference at the legislature.
“When the ruling comes in a few years — which we believe we’ll win — it would cost more losses to the companies that have invested so much money in the project,” he said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) berated the EPA for saying the project only needs to present the results of another EIA rather than going through the whole process again.
“When a decision by the government is revoked by the court, it means the whole thing is revoked, not just the result,” Tien said. “How can the EPA, a government agency, twist a court ruling and humiliate the court like this?”
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Foundation chairman Robin Winkler (文魯彬) said that if the government was so “pro-business” and unwilling to respect the law, “it would not be able to attract good, responsible businesses from abroad to invest, but only the worst, because they know the government would help them do anything they want.”
Meanwhile, environmental activists and researchers yesterday questioned the accuracy of an EIA presented by Kuokuang Petrochemical Corp.
Gloria Hsu (徐光蓉) of National Taiwan University (NTU), who is also a member of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), told a press conference that the union would soon publish a brochure titled The Illusory Petrochemical Kingdom to highlight the major mistakes and unanswered questions in the report.
The pamphlet was written by Hsu, Lin Pi-yao (林碧堯) of Tunghai University, Chou Chin-cheng (周晉澄) and Wu Ching-chi (吳清吉) of NTU, as well as other TEPU members.
TEPU said the petrochemical company’s claim that it would create 692,000 jobs once operations began was proof it was exaggerating its statistics.
According to the 2009 Human Resources Report by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), the chemical and petrochemical industries accounted for a total of 268,000 jobs.
“Does the work force also include the ladies that sell betel nuts outside the factory?” Hsu asked.
Hsu said Kuokuang’s report showed that its scale of operations would be comparable to Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s naphtha cracker in Mailiao (麥寮). Formosa Petrochemical has said its naphtha cracker emits 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, but Kuokuang said its annual emissions would only be 12 million tonnes.
Hsu said Taiwan imports almost all of its energy sources, with the petrochemical industry consuming about one-third of this but contributing only about 4 percent of GDP.
“We’re not asking that the petrochemical industry be reduced to nothing,” Hsu said. “But the petrochemical sector already takes up a large share of the nation’s industry and should not be expanded anymore.”
Lin also said Kuokuang would not be using new production processes and could cause severe pollution.
He said the government was only thinking in terms of profit from the sale of petrochemical products to China under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a strategy that would cause serious suffering to Taiwanese.
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