By Lee I-chia / Staff reporter
Changhua County residents and activists protest in front of the Environmental Protection Administration in Taipei City yesterday against Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co’s proposed naphtha cracker project.
Members of the Changhua Medical Alliance hold up posters calling for cleaner air during a protest at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday. The protesters demanded that regulations governing fine particulate matter (PM2.5) be included in the revision of the Air Pollution Act.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
The Environmental Protection Administration’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) committee yesterday failed to reach a conclusion on a proposed Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化) naphtha cracker complex despite a marathon nine-hour discussion.
The committee will meet again today on whether to greenlight the complex being built in a wetland area in Changhua County.
At the last committee meeting on Jan. 28, Kuokuang was told it had to submit additional information about the project, which had been scaled back from its original proposal.
Yesterday’s meeting began with Kuokuang’s report about the possible impact of the reduced project — which would be constructed on a man-made island — on air pollution, health risks, changes to coastal geography, the endangered Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and the area’s water supply.
The report concluded that the air pollution produced by the complex would be within regulation limits, the energy consumed could be reduced and that the plants that pose a higher health risk would be located further from land. The report said the plant would not extract groundwater, so it would not affect land subsidence, while protection of dolphins could be improved by setting up a foundation.
The report said the total economic benefits of the project could reach NT$286.2 billion (US$9.86 billion), larger than the external cost of NT$21.8 billion to NT$32.7 billion, and could provide more job opportunities.
However, Lin Lien-tsung (林連宗), a resident of Changhua’s Fangyuan Township (芳苑), asked where the water supply would come from if a proposed diversion weir did not pass its own EIA.
Hsu Li-yi (許立儀), a resident of Dacheng Township (大城), said her family has lived in the area for generations, but she did not want her children to grow up on polluted land between two petrochemical sites in Yulin and Changhua counties.
Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), a National Chung Hsing University professor, said the company overestimated the plant’s benefits in its report. A recalculation of the possible health risks and medical costs would make the costs outweigh the benefits, Chen said.
The director of Yunlin County Government’s Economic Affairs Department, Huang Chiung-ya (黃瓊雅), said the petrochemical complex built by Formosa Plastics Group in Mailiao Township (麥寮) had severely polluted the environment, raising the risk of cancer for area residents and causing three accidents in the past two years.
Huang, representing Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), urged the committee members to consider their professional expertise and their conscience, and reject Kuokuang’s application to prevent the same kind of tragedy happening in Changhua.
Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), a National Taiwan University professor, said that if members of the EIA panel were to use “environmental protection” as the professional standard in reviewing the case, then Kuokang’s application should be rejected because there is enough evidence that the plant would clearly impact the environment, society and residents’ health.
Approving the project would be a mistake and a violation of environmental justice, he said.
Meanwhile, outside the EPA’s headquarters, hundreds of Changhua County residents and students from universities nationwide, protested against the proposed plant’s negative impact on the environment and residents.