Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ma sinks Kuokuang ! Time to break out the bubbly?

Shortly after the Environmental Protection Administration’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) committee failed to reach a conclusion on the proposed Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (國光石化) naphtha cracker complex yesterday, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou told a press conference at the Presidential Office that he opposed building the project in Changhua County. This statement by President Ma has now effectively sunk the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical project in Changhua County.

The scuttling of this proposed environmental nightmare hopefully means that the Dacheng wetlands are safe from the petrochemical industry; well, at least in the immediate future. The loss of the Dacheng wetlands would almost certainly have been the death blow to the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. This struggling population of unique dolphins could never have survived the impact that the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical project would have had on them. Ma said the complex, which was to be built on reclaimed land from the Dacheng wetlands, would have had an "unbearable" impact on the local ecology and environment.

The government has been firmly behind the planned Kuokuang Petrochemical project. One could quite easily have mistaken Premier Wu Den-yih for a petrochemical executive rather than the nation's premier considering how he has gone all out in his effort to get the green light for this project. Clearly, the government didn't anticipate such a strong reaction to their plans. Determined opposition to this project has forced the government to back down but has this caused a change of heart? Is Kuokuang just going to move to another front? Will we see it reemerge in Yunlin, Penghu or elsewhere?

The state-run refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油), the largest shareholder of Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co has undoubtedly lost big money in this. It goes without saying that the private shareholders from the petrochemical industry have as well. What's the government going to do to compensate for this loss? Yesterday, Ma went on to say, "However, we will not and cannot give up on the petrochemical industry."

Is it time to break out the bubbly in a victory celebration? Or in the battle against the petrochemical giants vs Taiwan's environment, has just the position of the front shifted? Any bets on Penghu?

See Taskforce equivocates on naphtha plant in today's Taipei Times.

Also see After nine hours, still no verdict on Kuokuang’s EIA.

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