ELECTIONS 2022/Taichung mayoral candidates underscore air pollution at forum

11/16/2022 04:29 PM
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Incumbent Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (right) of the KMT and her DPP challenger, Deputy Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang arrive at the venue of Tuesday
Incumbent Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (right) of the KMT and her DPP challenger, Deputy Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang arrive at the venue of Tuesday's policy presentation organized by the local election commission. CNA photo Nov. 15, 2022

Taipei, Nov. 16 (CNA) The main candidates running for mayor in Taichung on Tuesday outlined their policies for dealing with air pollution, a longstanding issue that has influenced voters in the central Taiwan city.

At the televised forum in which candidates presented their policies, incumbent Kuomintang (KMT) mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) said she has taken steps to curb air pollution during her four years in office that have helped reduce the number of "poor air days" by 75 percent.

Lu said she also opposed a central government plan to keep existing coal-fired generators in reserve at the Taichung Power Plant even after the introduction of new gas-fired turbines, resulting in a compromise on the issue.

After negotiations, she said, the central government agreed to scrap two coal-fired units in 2027 after two new gas-fired units become operational.

One of the world's largest coal-fired plants, the Taichung Power Plant currently consists of 10 coal-fired generators and is one of Taiwan's main polluters and carbon emissions emitters.

State-run utility Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), which runs the power plant, will add two natural gas-powered units in 2025 in line with the government's policy of decreasing coal consumption to improve air pollution.

Lu criticized her challenger, Deputy Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), for his stance on keeping coal-fired generators around as backups instead of scrapping them.

In his presentation, Tsai said he proposed legislation at the Legislature in 2021 that would replace coal-fired units with gas-fired generators to improve air quality in Taichung.

Though the bill passed, KMT lawmakers abstained from the vote over concerns that the bill would not actually scrap the replaced coal-fired generators but instead keep them in reserve.

Tsai defended that policy out of national security considerations, arguing that if Taiwan were blockaded or shipping were restricted the units could give Taiwan more electricity-generating capacity.

The DPP candidate also argued that Lu had done a bad job protecting the health of Taichung citizens, citing a recent Taiwan Environmental Righteousness Association report that said the city's air quality was worse than that of Pingtung County in southern Taiwan for the first time.

In addition to air quality, the two candidates touched on several other issues including public order, social welfare, and economic development.

Meanwhile, the only other candidate in the race, independent Chen Mei-fei (陳美妃), said she will take real actions to make Taichung better instead of spouting empty rhetoric.

(By Su Mu-chun, Hau Hsueh-ching and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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