A demonstrator yesterday kneels outside the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taipei while holding a sign reading “As a victim, I have the right to take part in the meeting,” referring to a meeting of representatives from the EPA, Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp and the Changhua County Government that was under way inside the building to discuss the fate of the company’s 51-year-old Changhua plant.
Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp (台化) has no plan to furlough its Changhua plant workers, even though the three boilers of the plant’s coal-fired generators were shut down yesterday.
The company said it would still pay salaries and bonuses to about 1,000 workers at the loss-making plant, which mainly produces artificial fibers such as nylon and rayon.
However, yesterday’s negotiation session between the company, the Changhua County Government and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) only reached consensus on the protection of labor rights and the company’s compliance with emission standards.
The key issue of the company’s license renewal application for its three boilers remains unsolved.
The license for the three boilers expired on Wednesday last week.
The county government has refused to renew the license due to the company’s failure to meet regulatory requirements by lowering the sulfur content in the bituminous coal used in the generators.
The county has also demanded that the company apply for a new permit for the boilers, but the company said it should only have to renew the license and promise to reduce sulfur oxide emissions to 25 parts per million (ppm) within four years.
Following a two-hour closed-door meeting at the EPA’s headquarters in Taipei, Environmental Protection Administration Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said that Formosa Chemicals & Fibre had promised to accept all the emission standards proposed by the country government during the negotiations.
“But the company still refused to apply for a new permit,” Lee said.
Changhua County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) confirmed that the company agreed that the labor rights of the plant’s workers should be protected, but that there was no budging on the permit issue.
As the company has said it would file an administrative lawsuit over its failed application, Lee said the Changhua plant needs to halt operations for the duration of the transitional procedure.
In the long term, the company must come up with a plan to relocate the plant, as the county government has development plans for the site, including an elevated railway project that is to be completed in 2028, Lee said.
Separately, the EPA reviewed the company’s application for an administrative remedy over the Changhua plant’s industry categorization.
The county sees the plant site as a “special industrial area,” but the company rejects that label.
According to the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法), a plant defined as a “special industrial area” must meet higher emission standards than other plants.
The EPA said in a statement that the Changhua plant should be seen as a special industrial area, which would mean its emissions total needs to include the emissions generated by the plant’s manufacturing process as well as what other facilities surrounding the plant produce.
The company has rejected criticism that the 51-year-old Changhua plant is a polluter, saying that the plant has not been fined in the past five years for violating emission standards. The plant is a money loser, the company said, losing a total of NT$1.7 billion (US$54 billion) over the past five years.