Taichung mayor criticizes EPA approval of new gas-fired generators

01/21/2020 08:47 PM
Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕)
Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕)

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) on Tuesday criticized the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of two new natural gas-fired generators, which are set to be constructed at Taichung Power Plant.

The EPA approved an environmental impact assessment for the new generators at a five-hour meeting Monday, a decision that sparked criticism not only from Lu but also county magistrates in the central Taiwan counties of Changhua, Nantou and Miaoli.

At a city government meeting, Lu slammed the EPA for allowing the power plant to construct new generators while continuing to operate the 10 coal-fired generators the plant currently has, and likened the decision to a "nightmare scenario."

"We will not accept this," Lu said.

Representatives from Taichung, Changhua and Nantou who attended the meeting all called for the removal of four coal-fired generators at the power plant if the two new natural-gas fired generators are to be built, according to Lu.

Regrettably, the central government has continued to do as it pleases, without any concern for public opinion, Lu said.

The fossil fuel-dependent Taichung Power Plant, one of the largest of its kind in the world, is operated by state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), and was fined on multiple occasions by Taichung city government last year for coal use violations.

The power plant is the largest stationary pollution source in Taichung, Lu said.

In a statement Tuesday, Changhua County Magistrate Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) said the EPA's decision showed "complete disregard for the health and lives of the people of Changhua."

Miaoli County Magistrate Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌) pointed out that although natural gas is a cleaner energy source, the new generators will still worsen air pollution in central Taiwan, a point echoed by Nantou County Magistrate Lin Ming-chen (林明溱).

According to a Taipower press statement released Monday, after the two new generators are activated, four of the 10 coal-fired generators at the power plant will gradually only be used as backup, and operated under specific circumstances.

The combination of two natural gas-generators and six coal-fired generators will allow Taichung Power Plant to reduce its emission of air pollutants by 64-72 percent, Taipower said.

The backup generators will be used only when three conditions are met. The first is that it is between the months of April and September, which is when air pollution is less serious.

The second condition is that the air quality must be rated good or moderate on the Air Quality Index (AQI), and the third is that the operating reserve margin is below 8 percent, according to Taipower.

Only two of the four generators will be activated at the same time under such circumstances, Taipower said.

Taipower said that it was not retiring the generators because they could still be of use during emergency situations, and that it is "unsuitable" to retire the units before the required age.

The company will also have to abide by stricter conditions listed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs when running the power plant's other coal-fired units in the future.

This includes a cap of 240 hours per year when it is allowed to operate more than six coal-fired generators together, and a restriction of 10 generators (coal-fired and natural gas-fired), that it can operate simultaneously.

(By Hao Hsueh-chin, Tsai Peng-min and Chiang Yi-ching)

Enditem/AW

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