REFERENDUMS 2021/As referendum draws near, president calls for support for LNG project

11/25/2021 07:45 PM
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Taipei, Nov. 25 (CNA) The revised version of a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal project in Taoyuan will meet the requirements of both national development and environmental protection, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Thursday in an apparent attempt to lobby for the "no" vote in an upcoming referendum in December about whether to relocate the terminal.

Accompanied by a group of journalists, the president visited two algae reef areas on Thursday morning along the coast of Taoyuan, including one that environmentalists have warned would be seriously endangered by the ongoing LNG project, before ending her tour at the natural gas-fueled Datan Power Plant.

"The liquid natural gas terminal is not being built on the algae reef," Tsai declared, adding the government was dedicated to environmental protection as it continues building up infrastructure to increase power supply.

She said part of the construction was taking place on existing reclaimed land without affecting the intertidal zone near the coast.

In addition, a revision to the project would further move part of the construction some 455 meters away to 1.2 kilometers from the coast, Tsai said.

The revision was proposed by the government in May shortly after a motion initiated for a referendum to put the project to a halt was approved by election authorities to be held on Dec. 18.

The referendum question asks: "Do you agree that CPC Corp., Taiwan's third liquefied natural gas terminal should be relocated from its planned site on the algae reef coast of Datan, Taoyuan, and its adjacent waters?"

Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政), convener of the Algae Reef Reservation Alliance who initiated the referendum, said he has never opposed the construction of the LNG plant per se, only its location on the algal reef and negative impact on the local ecosystem.

Pan and other environmentalists have argued that the reef took at least 5,000 years to form and is the largest of its kind in the world.

The reef also has rich biodiversity and is home to endangered coral species, polycyathus chaishanensis, and hammerhead sharks that are listed on the IUCN Red List of endangered species.

But Tsai argued that one-third of the construction of the terminal has already been completed and the algae reefs remain intact, calling on voters to support the government's revised plan and thus vote "no" in the referendum. The revised plan is undergoing an environmental assessment because of the changes made.

Tsai added that her administration had significantly reduced the area of the LNG project from 232 hectares drawn up by her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) government to only 23 hectares.

The government commenced the construction in November 2019 for the purpose of storing and processing imported liquid natural gas that can then be transmitted to the nearby Datan Power Plant for generating electricity.

Currently, the power plant relies on the supply of the gas from another terminal located in Taichung.

However, with one generator at the power plant being upgraded and two new generators being built, the terminal in Taichung will no longer deliver enough gas required by the power plant in the next few years, according to the government.

While environmentalists have urged the government to relocate the terminal further north to an area covering piers N7-N9 at the Port of Taipei in New Taipei, the government rejected the proposal, saying it would take 11 years to build a new terminal there, which would also potentially have an environmental impact.

The Datan Power Plant plays a key role in supplying electricity to northern Taiwan, which is why the government is building the terminal in Taoyuan, said Tsai, comparing the plant and terminal to a gas stove and gas.

The power plant will also contribute to the country's goal to significantly reduce carbon emissions and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, she added.

The Tsai administration is putting a lot of emphasis on natural gas for electricity supply as it works on its plans to develop alternative energy such as offshore wind power while gradually phasing out nuclear power.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the government aims to increase its dependence on natural gas for Taiwan's electricity generation to 50 percent by 2025, while the share of coal and green energy will be 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

(By Yeh Su-ping, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Teng Pei-ju)

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