Environmental groups split over Cabinet plan to relocate LNG project
Taipei, May 4 (CNA) A government proposal to relocate a controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, moving it further away from the algae reefs on Taiwan's north coast, drew mixed responses from environmental groups Tuesday.
Responding to the Cabinet's relocation plan that was released Monday, some environmental groups said it was the best compromise, while others panned it as ineffective.
Rescue Datan's Algal Reefs Alliance, which initiated a national referendum on the project, said the government had failed to explore all possible alternatives to the current LNG terminal, which is being built off the coast of Datan Borough in Taoyuan.
Furthermore, the government has not been transparent about the details of the project, said the group, which does not want the LNG terminal to be built anywhere in the selected area.
Under the government's latest proposal, the LNG terminal will be constructed 1.2 kilometers off the coast Datan, 455 meters further out than its current site.
The revision will push up the cost of the project by NT$15 billion to NT$75 billion and delay the completion date by two and half years to 2025, the Cabinet said.
According to the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, the proposal is a losing one on all sides because it will not protect the algal reef ecosystem or resolve the issue of rough seas off Datan, which would present a challenge for the operation of the terminal.
Some other NGOs and environmental groups said, however, that the Cabinet's plan was the best option at this time, as it would help to phase out nuclear power, cut back on the use of coal-burning power generators, and would not destroy the algae reefs in the short term.
According to the Cabinet, the relocation plan will guarantee that the terminal, the third of its kind in Taiwan, will not affect the underwater reef, as it will be moved further away.
The Datan natural gas terminal project, which began construction in 2019, is thought to be crucial to the energy goals set by President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) administration to generate 20 percent of Taiwan's electricity from renewables, 30 percent from coal, and 50 percent from natural gas by 2025.
Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴), a former deputy head of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), said Tuesday that the relocation plan showed the government's commitment to protecting the reefs as far as possible.
"Are we really going to choose a clash instead of a conversation, now that a new plan has been put forth?" Chan said.
His views on the issue were supported by representatives of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, National Students' Union of Taiwan, and other groups.
The divisions among the country's environment groups on the issue has raised speculations about the fate of the national referendum that was initiated by the Rescue Datan's Algal Reefs Alliance and will likely be held Aug. 28 once the signatures the group collected are certified by the Central Election Commission.
The referendum will ask voters whether they agree that the LNG terminal should be relocated from its planned site near the algal reef coast of Datan and its surrounding waters.
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