Environmental groups yesterday accused the Keelung City Government of delaying its application for a proposed local referendum on protecting waters off the city’s Waimushan (外木山), urging it to speed up the review process.
The demonstrators, including Protecting Waimushan Action Group members and Keelung city councilors Sean Chang (張淵翔) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Chen Wei-chung (陳薇仲) of the New Power Party, made the appeal at a protest in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei.
Taiwan Power Co has proposed using land reclamation as part of its plans to build the nation’s fourth liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal off the coast of Waimushan and transform the Hsieh-ho Power Plant (協和電廠) into a gas-fired power plant.
The Environmental Protection Administration is expected to review the environmental impact assessment for the LNG terminal on Sept. 30, after the proposal failed to pass a review last month.
Independent Keelung City Councilor Wang Hsing-chih (王醒之) said the plan would have a huge impact on the waters off Keelung and the Port of Keelung, affecting the city’s marine ecology, coastal landscape, and fishery and port services.
The groups thus proposed the “Keelung ocean protection referendum,” the first local referendum proposed in the city, he said.
The referendum proposal was put forward on June 1 and a week later had more than 1,238 signatures, the legal threshold for proposing a referendum, Wang said, adding that the number had doubled after 11 days.
The proposal was submitted to the government on June 17, he said.
After 29 days, the city government asked for additional documents, which the group submitted on July 21, but it replied 29 days later saying that it had to report to the Executive Yuan to determine whether the case could be considered an initiative regarding local autonomy, Wang said.
He criticized the city government for avoiding its responsibilities and asked the Executive Yuan to “let the local government shoulder the responsibility where it is due.”
If the central government and the local government block the referendum, they “will pay the price at the local elections in November,” Wang added.
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association attorney Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅) said the proposed referendum states: “Do you agree that the Keelung City Government should reject the Hsieh-ho Power Plant and its affiliated LNG terminal to reclaim land from waters off Keelung?”
Regulations on local referendums, rather than national referendums, clearly apply in this case, she said.
Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) yesterday said that the Cabinet has authorized the Ministry of the Interior to handle cases where Article 26, Paragraph 3 of the Referendum Act (公民投票法) applies.
The paragraph say: “If there is any doubt whether the proposal of a referendum is about a local autonomous matter, the municipal or county (city) government shall report it to the Executive Yuan for determination.”
The Executive Yuan sent the case, which was submitted by the Keelung City Government on Aug. 18, to the Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday last week for review, Lo said.
The Keelung City Government yesterday denied stalling the application’s review process.
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