Dirty energy heats up conflicts in central Taiwan

Reopening of coal-fired plants in Taichung draws outcry from locals

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In 2019 coal accounted for 30.8% of energy generation in Taiwan.

In 2019 coal accounted for 30.8% of energy generation in Taiwan. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A confrontation between the Taichung City Government and the Taiwan Power Company (TPC) over air pollution has triggered a round of political arm-wrestling between the central and local governments.

On June 29 the Taichung municipality fined the TPC NT$20 million (US$681,863) and persecuted its president, Yang Wei-fu (楊偉甫), as the company insisted several days earlier it would turn on its No.2 generator at the Taichung Power Plant, which the city has still not granted a permit.

On June 30, however, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) not only annulled the city's previous punishment placed on the TPC but said that it would do the same for the new fine.

According to the TPC, the generator was reactivated to prepare for peak electricity consumption this summer. The TPC also claimed that work on the generator has enabled it to clear emissions standards; furthermore, this February the EPA also rejected the city's earlier decision to suspend the use of the generator.

The Taichung City Government, however, believes the EPA has no right to interfere with its municipal authority. In its telling, under the Local Government Act, the EPA should report to the Cabinet and let it deliver the final verdict.

In its statement, the EPA pointed out that the city's previous actions to suspend the use of the generator based on its overuse of coal had been overruled, and the Cabinet also refused the city's request for an administrative appeal. According to the Air Pollution Control Act, the TPC's generator in Taichung can continue its operation until the city completes the review process and decides whether to renew the permit.

Beyond the present legal disputes, some believe the central government should specify its timeline for phasing out the use of coal power. Legislator Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) believes that the TPC should make the energy consumption data transparent and take advantage of solar energy in the summer instead of fossil fuels.

The No.2 generator at the Taichung Power Plant is still running. One official from the Taichung City Government told Taiwan News that the city would maintain its stance and continue to deem the TPC's actions illegal.