Environmental groups yesterday challenged a multibillion-dollar expansion of the Formosa Plastics Group’s (FPG) naphtha cracker complex in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮), saying the county government illegally issued emission licenses without a proper review.
The planned NT$11.98 billion (US$366.13 million) project has been frozen since August last year amid a row over air pollution standards.
An environmental impact assessment (EIA) review in Taipei yesterday between the EIA committee, FPG and environmental groups — the fourth such review since August last year — failed to reach a consensus on the plant’s emission quota, leaving the project in limbo.
EIA committee member Lee Yu-ming (李育明) said that a plant run by Formosa Heavy Industries Corp received a higher emission quota than that approved by the EIA committee in 2012, adding that such a thing should not have happened and should never happen again.
Environmental groups said that the Yunlin Environmental Protection Bureau had renewed dozens of emission licenses to different plants in the naphtha cracker complex ahead of their expiration dates, while raising the emission quotas without any EIA review, moves they said were against the law.
“The Yunlin County Government gave operating licenses to plants applying for expansion, but the expansion project has not yet been approved,” Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said.
“In March last year, the county government gave an emission quota of 146.88 tonnes of volatile organic compounds [VOCs] per year to a superabsorbent polymers [SAP] plant in the complex, which was allowed only 13 tonnes of VOCs per year by the EIA committee,” Chen said. “That should be looked into by prosecutors or the Control Yuan.”
Producing an emission license for the SAP plant that appeared to conflict with the one presented by FPG, Chen said a particular manufacturing process — E329 — was listed on the license she collected, but not on the one FPG had, adding that the company either neglected or deliberately excluded a polluting source from the permissible emission quota.
The environmental groups called on the EIA committee to stop reviewing the project until all statistics are cleared up and an emission calculation mechanism is established.
However, FPG said the data it provided were accurate and truthful, while the difference between its data and the environmental groups’ numbers must be due to the environmental groups’ miscalculation.
The groups miscalculated because they counted the emission of auxiliary manufacturing processes, such as the E329 process, in addition to the entire permissible emission quota, while all the manufacturing processes of a plant are counted as a whole, FPG said.
Every modification of the manufacturing process requires reapplication of the operating license with the local government, which was why the county government renewed the licenses before they expired, the company said.
Recommending that FPG make its emission calculation method public and have it approved by a third-party, one EIA committee member said that the emission numbers should be easily clarified, but since they were not, a five-party meeting between the company, the Environmental Protection Administration, the EIA committee, the county government and environmental groups should be held.
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