Local governments criticize EPA coal-fired power plant decision

Taipei, Several local governments on Thursday criticized the passage of an environmental impact difference review relating to the planned expansion of a coal-fired power plant in New Taipei by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) the previous day.

The project was proposed last year by state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) which is looking to expand its coal-fired Shen'ao power plant in the city by installing two additional coal-burning generators with 600,000 kilowatts of capacity each.

While the project, which was devised to meet electricity demand in northern Taiwan, passed an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 2006, Taipower was recently required to undergo an environmental impact difference review due to changes made to the project, which has failed to progress past the planning stage.

On Wednesday, the revised project passed the environmental impact difference review conducted by the EPA's EIA committee after EPA Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei (???) cast the deciding vote.

However, the decision was immediately criticized by local governments and environmental groups.

New Taipei City government on Thursday reiterated its policy of not issuing coal-use permits to new facilities regardless of the coal-fired power plant expansion project passing an environmental impact difference review.

Calling the decision to approve the project political in nature, Liou Her-ran (???), head of the city's Environmental Protection Department, who also attended the EIA review, said Thursday he had been surprised by the outcome of the four-hour meeting and indicated the city would take legal action to invalidate the decision.

New Taipei is not opposed to building power plants but it strongly disapproves of Taipower's choice of coal-fired power generation at the Shenao plant, particularly at a time when the country is striving to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions, according to Liou.

Liou said that the New Taipei City government has not issued coal-use permits to new facilities since 2016. At the same time, Mayor Eric Chu (???) reiterated earlier this year that the new coal-fired power plant will not be allowed to go into operation even if billions of Taiwan dollars are spent on its construction, Liou added.

Echoing New Taipei, the Taipei City government also expressed opposition to the coal-fired units at the plant, calling for a new environmental impact review to be conducted.

Meanwhile, Keelung City government run by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party also expressed disapproval of the decision over concerns about potential air pollution in Keelung caused by the plant.

The Yilan County government said that according to a simulation of air pollution from the power plant carried out by New Taipei, it would suffer the worst air pollution. Therefore, it urged Taipower to conduct a more comprehensive assessment and make public related data and information to help ease public concern.

In response, EPA Minister Lee Ying-yuan (???) indicated that the revised proposal had passed the review, with some modifications to the project, including the installation of two ultra-supercritical coal-fired generators that are less polluting. These cut air pollution by two-thirds from the level stated in the initial proposal and reduce the capacity of the two generators from 800,000 kilowatts to 600,000 kilowatts each.

Lee also said he will continue to communicate with New Taipei on the issuance of coal-use permits.

Meanwhile, Taipower Chairman Yang Wei-fu (???) said the company will discuss the matter with the city government.

Opposition Kuomintang legislators criticized the fact that Chan cast the deciding vote to pass the controversial project, calling on Lee and Chan to step down for supporting a policy that runs counter to the government's air pollution prevention policy.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel