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Magistrate Su Urges the Termination of Guoguang Petrochemical Park Environmental Assessment, Calling for an Environmental Assessment of the Petrochemical Policy First

                               2010-12-13

With regard to the comments made by Mr. Jung-chiou Hwang, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs, during a media interview in which he stated that the decision not to restrict the site of Guoguang Petrochemical to Da cheng was merely to reserve the possibilities for Guoguang Petrochemical’s future construction. From this, the Magistrate of Yunlin County, Chih-fen Su, indicated that the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which is in charge of the nation’s industrial developmental policy, is still in the inquiry stage and indecisive of the necessity of an eighth naphtha cracker plant for the nation. In view of this, Magistrate Su urged the Ma administration to terminate the Guoguang Petrochemical-related environmental assessment work immediately and called for an environmental assessment of the petrochemical policy first, postponing the environmental assessments of individual cases till determining conclusively that there is still room for large-scale petrochemical development in Taiwan.

Magistrate Su pointed out that from the No. 5 Naphtha Cracker Plant protest and the relocation promise to the No. 6 Naphtha Cracker Plant’s safety and environmental accidents, all were evident of the unwelcome role played by the petrochemical industry locally. Along with the significant increase in the nation’s ethylene self-sufficiency rate in recent years, the government was led to rethink the future direction of the domestic petrochemical policy, and therefore, since 2008, the Ministry of Economic Affairs had carried out the environmental impact assessment of the petrochemical policy, hoping to determine whether or not there is a need for Taiwan to continue developing large-scale petrochemical industry and the environmental impact of such development while taking consideration both of economic development and environmental consciousness to further draw up the direction of policy. However, two years had passed, and only several expert consultation meetings and a public hearing for the environmental impact assessment of petrochemical policy were conducted, not yielding any conclusion yet so far. And yet, at this moment, with the uproar caused by the oil storage tank explosion accident at the No. 6 Naphtha Cracker Plant just easing and following the recently ended mayoral election, the urgent, accelerated processing of the environmental assessment for Guoguang Petrochemical Development Project made people wondering about and suspecting the reason for the central government’s haste to carry out the individual environmental assessment without expert verification of Taiwan’s existing need for petrochemical industry and solid evaluation of the pros and cons, doubting was it that the power holder had instructed for the procedure’s speedy passage?

Magistrate Su indicated that the central government’s present push for the Guoguang Petrochemical Development Project was akin to the push for the No. 6 Naptha Cracker Project 20 years ago, similarly trumpeting the development of economy and the increase of employment opportunities but now telling another group of equally hardworking, sea-dependent folks living along the Zhuoshui River who also enjoy the quiet life of fishing village that, with the eighth naphtha cracker plant, the land value would elevate and people would be able to enjoy richer and better lives, just as the government told the residents in the coastal areas of Yunlin 20 years ago that Yunlin County would reap good fortunes from the construction of the sixth naphtha cracker plant. However, 20 years had passed, and seemingly, the majority of Yunlin County’s residents disagreed that it was a bliss. But now, the central government and the developer seem to try replicating the No. 6 Naphtha Cracker experience, utilizing a massive information asymmetry and making up a beautiful vision to intentionally mislead the public, which is truly worrisome to people who wonder whether tomorrow’s No. 8 Naphtha Cracker Plant will be a repeat of today’s No. 6 Naphtha Cracker Plant. Would the beautiful dream of the past fade with the passing of time, leaving behind only a devastated land and lamenting residents? As a result, Magistrate Su strongly urged the central government to immediately terminate the Guoguang Petrochemical-related environmental assessment work, allowing the environmental assessment of petrochemical policy to proceed detachedly and the experts to sufficiently debate and evaluate whether or not our nation still requires a large-scale petrochemical establishment and whether or not our environment can bear such establishment. After the finalization of policy direction, whether there is any need for deliberation of environmental assessments similar to those of Guoguang Petrochemical Project and the fifth phase of No. 6 Naphtha Cracker Project will then become clear.

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