Saturday, July 31, 2010

Formosa Plastics Yunlin Complex ordered to shut down

The media reported that Premier Wu ordered the Formosa Plastics Naptha Cracker in Mailiao to shut down temporarily. Taiwan News says:
Premier Wu Den-yih yesterday ordered to suspend the operations of the Formosa Plastics Group's sixth naphtha cracker in Yunlin County after he visited the site yesterday afternoon. The order came four days later after a fire occurred at the huge complex from July 25-26.

Wu cancelled his planned appointment in Taipei yesterday afternoon and visited the naphtha cracker in Yunlin and was welcomed by local residents who staged a sit-in protest outside the FPG petrochemical complex and called for a suspension of operations.

Responding to the demand, Wu ordered the suspension of operations immediately, while asking a thorough check on the site and also have all the Mailiao residents to have health check.

When he met a visiting delegation led by Chinese National Federation of Industries Chairman Preston Chen at the Presidential Office Friday morning, President Ma Ying-jeou urged the county government to cooperate with the central government in handling the aftermath of recent fires at the huge complex in Mailiao, Yunlin County.

The president said that both government levels should cooperate in firefighting and environmental protection instead of bickering and that his administration will hold meetings with the industrial sector in order to seek a balance between economic development and environmental protection.

Both the president and premier have come under fire for failing to show support for the people of Mailiao. Yunlin County Magistrate Su Chih-fen took a delegation of local residents to Taipei Thursday to stage a protest against the central government's slow response. She knelt outside the Executive Yuan, asking the premier to visit the plant and to see how the July 25-26 fire had damaged farmers' liveli
There have actually been a couple of fires at the facility in recent months. The KMT is anxious to appear as if it cared about locals, since the President's indifferent, and often inane, response to the Morakot disaster in Aug of 2009 was a major factor in his plummeting approval scores and in subsequent voter punishment of the KMT. With elections now only three months away...

The Taipei Times said:
The fire on Sunday, the second in a month, has resulted in severe air pollution and huge losses for local agricultural and fishery industries in Mailiao. There has also been strong opposition from local residents to a planned expansion of the petrochemical complex that is currently undergoing an environmental impact assessment by the government.
To under environmental impact assessments and Mailiao, see this post of mine from 2007.

In a related case, environmentalists won a victory as a court blocked expansion of the Central Taiwan Science park. To wit:
To stop the seizure of their farmlands in Siangsiliao (相思寮), Erlin, activists, environmentalists and local farmers filed three lawsuits with the administrative court — to void the science park’s construction permit for the Erlin project, to nullify the results of an environmental impact assessment, and to order the science park to stop all activities related to the expansion project until rulings on the two prior issues are handed down.

The court yesterday ruled in favor of the activists and suspended all expansion activities.

“The court ruling stressed a very important point,” Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧) told a news conference at the legislature. “It said ‘economic development and environmental protection are equally important.’”

“This is a very crucial ruling, and we’re now at a very crucial moment: From now on, economic development should no longer take precedence over the environment, as people used to think decades ago,” she said.
We could be at a very crucial moment. Or maybe not. Court orders have been ignored before in Taiwan. In fact, in this very science park expansion. Back in January it was reported...
The Supreme Administrative Court upheld a ruling Jan. 22 invalidating the environmental impact assessment which had allowed for the expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park in Taichung County’s Houli Township.

The ruling put the developer, the National Science Council, in an awkward position, as construction had already begun after the initial conditional EIA approval. But after the court’s ruling was announced, work at the CTSP Houli branch was not stopped.

The failure to halt construction following the court’s decision angered environmental activists and legal experts alike. They called on the Environmental Protection Administration to order suspension of work in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Act. The nation’s top environmental authority, however, said the project did not have to be stopped.
The article is excellent and should be read in its entirety -- it gives a sad view of the emptiness of the EIA process, which exists to give the appearance of fulfilling an environmental commitment rather than to create the reality of it. They said when that order came down too that it was a watershed moment. But in social issues of this nature there is no single moment, but rather, the slow accumulation of events that produces an irresistible momentum. Still, it's movement in a positive direction....
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