Premier defends plan to re-open, expand coal-fired power plant

Taipei, Premier Lai Ching-te (???) Friday defended the government's plan to re-open and expand the Shen'ao coal-fired Power Plant in New Taipei, claiming it will cause only a minimum level of pollution due to the use of advanced equipment.

Lai said two ultra-supercritical generators will be installed at the plant in Rueifang District and that they use "much cleaner" coal, adding that as a result carbon emission levels will be equivalent to that at a natural gas plant.

Lai made the remarks while answering questions at a plenary legislative session after an environmental impact difference review on the power plant project was approved by a committee under the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Wednesday.

The approval of the environmental impact difference review, which means the coal-powered plant could be allowed to restart operations and could affect the health of nearly 9 million residents of northern Taiwan, has met with strong objections from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), environmentalists and six local governments -- Taipei, New Taipei, Yilan, Taoyuan, Hsinchu County and Keelung City.

The project passed an environment impact assessment in 2006, but Taipower was recently required to undertake an environmental impact difference review due to changes made to the plan.

In response to a statement posted by Acting Yilan County Magistrate Chen Chin-de (???) on his Facebook page that he does not accept the result of the environmental impact difference review and demands that Taipower provide a more comprehensive analysis and include Yilan in its environmental impact assessment, the premier said the matter will be handled in compliance with the law.

Meanwhile, proceedings at the Legislative Yuan were disrupted on Friday morning when KMT lawmakers, led by caucus leader Lee Yen-hsiu (???), occupied the podium in protest at the passing of the review, demanding the EPA review the project anew.

Lee told CNA the KMT demanded that Lai explain the government's energy policy and call a national energy conference. "It is unacceptable that the public have to pay the price of the government's wrongheaded policy."

"We will continue to occupy the podium until the session is dismissed if the ruling party is unwilling accept our demands," she said.

KMT lawmakers also demanded that EPA Minister Lee Yin-yuan (???) and EPA Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei (???), who has come under fire for casting the deciding vote to approve the environmental impact difference review, step down.

Meanwhile, Ker Chien-ming (???), a ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus whip, said the party will not accede to the KMT's demands.

According to Ker, a key report on the Shen'ao Power Plant will be presented at the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee Monday so there is no need to hold public hearings.

"We have asked Premier Lai to return to his office and the plenary questioning session will not continue," he noted.

The Shen'ao Power Plant, which began operations in 1960 with three generators that produced 40 megawatts of power, has been decommissioned since 2007.

However, to meet power demand in northern Taiwan, Taipower drafted a reopening and expansion project in 2017, aiming to install two generators with 160 megawatts of electricity altogether at the plant.

The project passed an EIA in 2006, but Taipower was recently required to undertake an environmental impact difference review after changes to the project over the past decade.

The passage of the environmental impact difference review has also triggered criticism from civic groups.

Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance director Yeh Kuang-peng (???) said Thursday that it was a pity the project passed the review.

It dealt a heavy blow to public health in northern Taiwan and to the country's image, he said." If the DPP refuses to take action to fix the issue, we will organize a large protest to oppose the power plant."

Greenpeace Taiwan campaigner Lisa Tsai (???) said the public and the local ecosystem are set to bear the brunt of the impact if the Shen'ao Power Plant resumes operation. All political parties must carefully scrutinize the need to reopen the plant and what has gone wrong with the screening process, she added.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel