Fifth Phase Expansion of the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Enters Second Phase Environmental Impact Assessment "Discussion of reducing carbon emissions is too somber." Environmental Impact Assessment Committee Intercedes On Behalf of Major Development Project

By Jing-hui Liao, Special Correspondent
11 March 2010

Taiwan Environmental Information Center, TAIBEI - Responding to the Control Yuan's request that the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) conduct an "General Inspection of the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant" (hereafter "General Inspection") in order to clarify the Sixth Naphtha Cracker Plant's (hereafter "Sixth Cracker") environmental impact and threat to public health, the Fifth Phase Expansion of the Sixth Cracker (hereafter "Fifth Expansion") development plan also entered into the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. Following the preliminary examination of the special investigation team and its follow up meeting convened on 2 and 4 February, and yesterday's (10 March) EIA meeting, without objection the Fifth Expansion was required to enter second phase EIA. The EIA Committee, however, paid no heed to environmental groups' position that results of the "General Inspection" should be brought into the examination of the Fifth Expansion. Moreover the EIA Committee believes that requiring major development projects to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a cross that cannot be borne.

The Fifth Expansion is primarily for the purpose of cracking light oil and production of carbon fiber, high grade rubber, and photovoltaic panels. The convener of the special investigation team explained that after the preliminary examination on 2 February, the team solicited a formal explanation from the EPA stating that the "General Inspection" does not influence the examination of the Fifth Expansion. On 4 February a follow up meeting was convened, and it was recommended that the project enter into second phase EIA focusing on 11 important points.

The 11 important points for assessment include: the environment's assimilative capacity and the impact of this development on the region's air quality, thorough investigation of air pollution emissions; estimates of water requirements and alternative plans to deal with insufficient water supply, including a desalination plan; supplementary public health risk assessments and research and proposal of mitigative countermeasures; regarding instances where the Fifth Expansion will result in modification of EIA documents of the previous four development phases of the Sixth Cracker, the reasonableness and environmental impacts should be reevaluated (note: this demonstrates the possible conflict with the "General Inspection"); maritime simulation materials and the feasibility of improving quality of waste water; evaluation of possible impacts and preventive measures of waste water on the maritime ecology (including the White Humpback Dolphin, Sousa Chinensis); GHG reduction plans, for instance consideration of carbon capture and sequestration. The final point is supplementary evaluation of impacts on the social economy.

Environmental organizations on the scene expressed themselves through remarks of Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association representative Janis Wang, "Before the examination of the Fifth Expansion, the earlier four development phases should be comprehensively investigated to determine whether or not they conform to laws and regulations, and we request the current EIA Committee to include the results of the 'General Inspection' in its examination considerations. Moreover, we request that the EPA provide the items required to be investigated in the 'General Inspection'; and announce and explain how the inspection results respond to the Control Yuan's concerns regarding the EIA process or monitoring program in its finding of administrative failing (Inefficacy of Supervisory Mechanisms). The EPA explanation should also address misgivings about the ongoing EIA of the Fifth Expansion, and the investigations related to later development of an industrial district on islands off the coast of Yunlin."

A representative for Formosa Plastics objects to the points of assessment to be included in second phase EIA, however. The representative believes that carbon capture and sequestration is unfeasible, conservation of white humpback dolphins should be led by the government, and desalination to meet water requirements would be troublesome. The representative further noted that production of high-tech multi-crystalline systems and silane (SiH4) is encouraged by the government, does not require EIA, and it is hoped that related developments will be excluded from any Sixth Cracker inspection. The Industrial Development Bureau and EPA explained that multi-crystalline systems and silane factories do not in fact need to submit EIAs, and are only required to furnish plans for factory establishment that are examined and approved separately.

A member of the EIA Committee believes that requiring businesses to furnish carbon emissions reduction plans is too burdensome. The member said, "If all major construction projects must carry the cross of carbon reduction, it is just too somber." The convener of the special investigation team further explained that carbon capture and sequestration are only examples, and businesses need only to create a "plan."