FOSSIL FUEL:The plant had long prompted pollution complaints from local residents as it used generators to produce electricity, the Changhua County commissioner said
By Chang Tsung-chiu, Huang Pei-chun and Jonathan Chin / Staff reporters, with staff writer
Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp employees attempt to cross a police line outside Changhua County Hall yesterday as they called on the Changhua County Environmental Protection Bureau not to shut down coal-fired boilers at the company’s plant in the county.
A group of Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp employees yesterday staged a sit-down protest in front of the Changhua County Government building, demanding that the Environmental Protection Bureau reverse its decision to shut down coal-fired boilers at the company’s Changhua plant.
Members of the Formosa Chemicals workers’ union and their relatives, local residents and a borough warden were among the protesters.
Shouting slogans demanding a restoration of the boilers’ industrial permits, resumption of work at the factory and job security, the protesters said the bureau had exceeded its authority.
The bureau had cited provisions of autonomous regulations not yet approved by the Environmental Protection Administration in its decision to shutter the boilers and ignored tests that showed emissions from the boilers have met environmental standards, the protesters said.
The bureau asked the company 35 times to improve the shortcomings at the plant found during its environmental impact assessment, but the firm returned the plans unaltered for 20 times, bureau Acting Director-General Jiang Pei-ken (江培根) said.
Jiang denied accusations that the bureau had sabotaged the firm’s efforts to pass the evaluations, saying: “Formosa Chemicals has refused to improve the conditions.”
He added that although the permit for the boilers had expired, the company may submit a new application any time.
Altercations between the demonstrators and police broke out after the county government refused to send a representative to talk to the crowd.
Calm was restored only after Changhua County Deputy Commissioner Chou Chih-chung (周志中) came out of the building to accept a petition from Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp Changhua Plant Workers’ Union president Liu Hua-hsing (劉華興).
However, in a related event in Taipei yesterday, Chuanghua County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) issued a statement, saying: “For the good of Changhua City’s development, there is no reason to keep Formosa Chemicals in the city.”
Nonresidential areas in the city, including the plant, are to be zoned exclusively for commercial use, Wei said, adding that the company had long prompted air pollution complaints from residents, because it has been using generators to produce electricity for Taiwan Power Co.
In response to questions about the livelihood of company employees who used to work at the plant, Wei said the county is committed to protect workers’ rights, and any violation of labor standards by the company will be dealt with by the county government, which would hire attorneys on behalf of the workers if necessary.
When asked for comment, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) said the ministry hopes that the county government and the company reach an agreement.
“Formosa Chemicals should consider what environmental protection improvements it can make to meet Changhua County Government standards, so that the two sides can reach a mutually satisfactory resolution and keep manufacturers and investment interests in Taiwan,” Shen said.