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Premier sets deadline for probe report on refinery fire

2010/07/31 20:00:56

Taipei, July 31 (CNA) Premier Wu Den-yih ordered Saturday thatFormosa Petrochemical Corp. submit an investigation report on Aug. 6detailing reasons behind a recent fire at its Mailiao oil refinery inYunlin County and plans for improvement.

"Formosa Petrochemical's No. 6 naphtha cracker plant in Mailiaowill not be allowed to re-open unless the cause of the fire isdiscovered and operating safety is fully guaranteed, " Wu said whileon an inspection tour of the Taichung area in central Taiwan.

Wu said the Council of Labor Affairs will invite academics totake part in the review, following a suggestion by Yunlin CountyMagistrate Su Chih-fen.

"The most important thing for now is to mitigate the damage ofthe fire, regardless of political affiliation in central and localgovernments," Wu said, adding that "everyone knows very clearly whichparty was in power in the central government from 2000-2008."

The fire at the company's No. 6 naphtha cracker plant on July 25-- the second fire in a month -- provoked anger from local residents,but the premier praised the handling of the incident by both theYunlin County government and Formosa Petrochemical.

"Both have properly dealt with the fire," he said.

Wu inspected the facility Friday and ordered the plant to remainclosed. Operations have been suspended since the fire broke out.

It is estimated Formosa Petrochemical could suffer losses ofabout NT$20 billion monthly while the plant is shut, undermining theprofits of its affiliates.

Formosa Petrochemical Chairman Wang Wen-yuan made a publicapology on Friday, offering assurances that his company will takegood care of the problem and issue compensation where necessary.

Commenting on a Taipei High Administrative Court ruling Fridaythat an expansion project at the Central Taiwan Science Park in ErlinTownship, Changhua County be shelved temporarily due to environmentalconcerns, the premier said he will ask government agencies to reviewthe issue.

The Cabinet-level Environmental Protection Administration (EPA)approved the project last November after it passed an environmentimpact assessment. Erlin residents filed an appeal with the TaipeiHigh Administrative Court, however, asking that the project be haltedor scrapped because of EPA negligence in the assessment. The courtruled in their favor.

The panel of judges said the ruling was not a final verdict, buta contingency measure to safeguard the interests of local farmers whoare losing land because of the science park expansion.

(By C. P. Chen and Flor Wang)