Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Court issues another injunction against science park expansion

AFP summarized the most recent decisions:
Taipei's High Administrative Court last week ordered an immediate stop to all building activity in the two zones -- Chihsing and Erlin, near the central city of Taichung -- saying environmental impact studies were incomplete.

"Economic development and environmental protection are equally important, and what we did is aimed at pursuing the biggest benefit for society," the court said.

Executives, joined by officials in charge of industrial policy, criticised the decision Tuesday, saying it had pushed into limbo projects worth several billion US dollars.

At stake are a flat-screen plant planned by high-tech giant AU Optronics with an estimated cost of 100 billion Taiwan dollars (3.1 billion US dollars), and a solar cell factory designed by Sunner Solar Corp, among others.

"The event will certainly have an impact on the investment front," said Chen Yu-yu, a Taipei-based analyst with Capital Securities.

"Big bosses are expected to take that into consideration while weighing the feasibility of their future investments here," he told AFP.

The National Science Council, which formulates policies for the high-tech industry, on Tuesday pledged to appeal the ruling.

"The ruling is improper," said an official of the council reached by AFP.

But conservationists welcomed the decision, saying the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) had spent too little time -- three months -- screening the environmental impact study of the Chihsing zone in 2007.

"Why rush? It's evidently designed to help AU Optronics," said Shih Yue-ying of the Changhua Environmental Protection Union, an NGO. "What the EPA did has put the health of local residents at risk."

While the ruling is not final, high-tech companies said they were in "shock", arguing the high-tech zones are crucial to their investment strategies.

"Taiwan may be the only country in the world where national policy can be easily overturned," said K.Y. Lee, chairman of AU Optronics Corp, according to the Taipei-based Liberty Times newspaper Tuesday.

"I'm afraid that not only industry but the country's competitive edge may be negatively impacted.... Even worse, investors may be scared away."

The ruling came just after AU Optronics President L.J. Chen announced plans to build two LCD facilities and two solar-energy plants at the Erlin base before 2022 at a cost of up to 400 billion Taiwan dollars.
The permitting for construction in the parks is not given by the EPA, but by the National Science Council (NSC). Premier Wu promised that construction would go on and thus asked the NSC to supply the additional environmental impact information. This article goes into some detail on AUO Optronics, a huge LCD maker, and its various investments in Taiwan. The move threatens Ma government policy, which mandates that tech firms can offshore manufacturing to China provided they maintain their technology leads in Taiwan.

The July 30th decision.....
The court also ruled, on July 30, to halt the fourth-stage expansion project of a science park in Erlin Township, Changhua County. Lin, who claims to have followed the park's development closely, accused the EPA of pushing through with the fourth-stage expansions despite the fact that assessments on wastewater in the nearby channels were still being conducted.
It should also be noted that some firms had already moved into the Central Taiwan Science Park and were operating there despite the fact that the park was not completed -- pollution and waste handling systems are not yet in place. The general disregard for the environmental destructiveness of the parks and their occupying firms has resulted in a totally needless backlash against further expansion of the island's innumerable large projects, which might easily have been averted had the government acted to enforce environmental discipline on these projects.

The High Court released its explanation:
In response, the Taipei High Administrative Court issued a press release yesterday, saying that the court’s decision to temporarily suspend the CTSP’s third-phase expansion project had been reached after careful deliberation. The press release stated that although consideration had been given to private interests, such as property rights, environmental protection had been put first and foremost.

According to the press release, the EPA provisionally approved the first-phrase environment impact assessment for the CTSP’s third-phase expansion project in 2006 on the condition that final approval required a further assessment of the health risks to residents before operations could begin. Furthermore, the assessment would need to be sent to the EPA for approval.
If the assessment concluded that the project would be harmful to the residents’ health, the organization committed to the project development should cancel the project without conditions. Even if the project had already begun operations, the CTSP Administration had to terminate the project without conditions regardless of how much money had been invested by the investors.

The case judges argued in the press release that the EPA had given its provisional approval for the CTSP’s third-phase expansion project in 2006, but the EPA had not yet approved the required assessment of the health risks to local residents. Furthermore, the Supreme Administrative Court had already vacated the aforementioned EPA provisional approval, so the grounds for the CTSP expansion in the Chisih facility had become void ab initio. The residents’ petition to stop the ongoing development was reasonable, the release added.
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Anonymous said...

I wonder how much Beijing is paying Yang Chiu-hsing to run as an independent?

les said...

On the one hand the common cry is that Taiwan's industrial base is being hollowed out as factories move to Taiwan. On the other, there is a rush to build new science parks to house new factories.
Of course it makes no sense to build new factories when thousands lie vacant, unless you are in the development business. The problem seems to be that many such people are pretending instead to be civil servants and politicians.