Tuesday, June 26, 2007

EPA Hearing

The long awaited Hushan EPA hearing has been scheduled for Friday, 29 June 2007. If the issue will actually be discussed remains to be seen. Details of the meeting are as follows:

EIAC Plenary Meeting Scheduled for Friday, 29 June 2007
English Summary of Agenda

The 152nd meeting of the environmental impact assessment commission of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Agency will be held at the EPA headquarters in Taipei at 0930 on 29 June 2007.

This year has been an unusual one for the commission in many ways. One is the low number of meetings held. According to the EPA’s regulations the meetings are in principle to be held once a month, however this year only three meetings have been held.

Scheduled for Friday’s meeting are the following items:

1. Review minutes of meeting No. 151. Even these reviews are controversial as the EPA has been refusing to include comments to case decisions provided by commissioners despite a ruling by the previous Minister (who is also chair of the commission) that all submissions by commissioners shall be included in the minutes.

2. Review discrepancy report on the Jhangbin Wind Farm. The developer, a Taiwan affiliate of a German investment bank, decided that its turbines were too close to those of Taipower’s and applied for a change in position of two turbines. The subcommittee approved the change with the condition that the developer take on the added responsibility of monitoring for the impact of the turbines on the reproduction of birds in the area, in particular members of the Family Charadriidae.

3. Review proposed development of a 14.7294 hectare marble open pit mine in Hualian County with anticipated annual production of 216,000 metric tones. There are a number of apparent irregularities in the administration of this case as well as some substantive points that the commissioners raised at the previous meeting. The chair during that meeting directed that the EPA staff look into the issues and report back to the plenary meeting. However, the minutes for the current meeting only include a simple statement that “this case will be reserved for further discussion at the next meeting”. None of the points or questions raised by the commissioners are discussed in the agenda.

4. Discrepancy comparisons. These are cases where the developer has proposed a change, but the change is so insignificant that the EPA believes a full discrepancy report (or a new EIA) is unnecessary. For this meeting, two reports are on the agenda: a housing development in Taijhong county and a redesign of a roof of the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, Pingtung, Taiwan. The former case is controversial on account of the EPA’s interpretation of article 16bis of the EIA Act. Under the law projects that have been delayed more than three years beyond the date of their original approval (not original EIA) must submit what is known as a “current discrepancy report” which is nearly tantamount to redoing the EIA from scratch. The EPA has stated that this article does not apply to the housing development as the housing development was approved prior to the effective date of the EIA Act. Commissioners have questioned whether this is an example of selective enforcement that favors the developers.

5. Dongshan Landfill. The EPA has finally responded to requests filed by local environmental groups in Tainan county regarding what they allege was the illegal approval by the local Tainan County Environment Protection Bureau of an industrial waste landfill in an area that drains into the Hutou Mountain Reservoir. Commissioners raised this at the plenary meeting held in January this year and the EPA has finally responded. At first the EPA declined any involvement saying that the matter belonged to the jurisdiction of the local EPB. When Commissioners cited article 3 of the Organic Act of the Environmental Protection Administration, the EPA was forced to admit it has jurisdiction. The EPA, in preparing for this meeting has given a detailed report on the actions being taken to follow up on the Dongshan Landfill.

6. Extemporaneous motions from the previous meeting

As the chairman cut the last meeting short, seven topics were not discussed despite the presence outside the EPA of representatives from over a half dozen environmental groups from around the nation. The motions included

1) request for the plenary session to rule on the decision of the subcommittee reviewing the Hushan Reservoir to order the developer to cease work on the project until controversies are cleared up.
2) request for a report on why the EPA is not aggressively fining Formosa Plastics for its violations of commitments contained in its environment impact assessment reports.
3) request for a report on how the EPA is responding to requests from representatives of the Losheng Sanatorium to scrap the original approval based on article 123 of the Administrative Procedure Act.
4) request for explanation why the EPA has failed to put several major cases that have been decided upon by subcommittees on the agenda of the plenary committee – the implication being that the EPA is working at the request of the developer and/or the Executive Yuan to delay the cases until the next session of the Commission (the term of the current commissioners ends on 30 July 2007 and although most of the controversial commissioners are eligible for reappointment, the reports in the newspaper indicate that none of the commissioners will be reappointed).
5) request for explanation as to why the EPA will not make public information about companies that violate of environmental laws and EIA commitments.
6) request for EPA to advise on how to compel government agencies to conduct a policy impact assessment for the government’s WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) project.
7) request for an explanation as to whether the EPA will intervene in EIA projects approved at the local government level (answered in EPA’s response to item 3).
8) a new item, request for confirmation from the EPA that commissioner’s notes and opinions for the plenary meeting will be attached to the minutes.

Please keep those letters of concern coming.

Also see: June 29 Hearing

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