Resignation of environmental official approved after online appeal

2018/10/08 20:46:36 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴/CNA file photo)

Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴/CNA file photo)

Taipei, Oct. 8 (CNA) The government has approved the resignation of Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) after Chan made his request to step down public on social media because it had been ignored for nearly a month.

In announcing it accepted Chan's resignation in a statement issued by spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka on Monday, the Executive Yuan, the administrative branch of Taiwan's government, recognized Chan's performance over the past two and a half years.

The approval was given "reluctantly," the statement said, explaining that Chan has faced harsh criticism from civic groups since casting a decisive vote in March allowing a controversial plan to reopen and expand the coal-fired Shen'ao power plant in New Taipei to pass an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Chan did his job based on the law, voting in favor of the plan after the developer presented a report on pre- and post-development environmental differences, reduced the project's scale to lower its potential environmental impact, and raised air pollution thresholds, the statement said.

"To prevent Chan from facing the same pressure, his resignation was approved reluctantly," the statement said, though it did not address Chan's criticism of Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) in his social media post or why the Executive Yuan ignored his request to resign.

In a lengthy post on Facebook earlier Monday, Chan said he submitted his resignation to the Executive Yuan on Sept. 13 after his superior, Environmental Protection Administration chief Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), declined to accept it.

Yet, despite the lack of a response, the 54-year-old Chan said he remained determined to follow through on his decision to step down.

The lawyer-turned governmental official said he agreed to take his post in May 2016 to carry out structural and far-reaching reforms and push for the revision of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act.

But he found opportunities to discuss policy issues in the Executive Yuan largely curbed over the past year, he said in his post.

"I am further and further away from the goal of revising the law," Chan wrote in the statement, saying he felt he has been negligent in exercising his duties.

He also criticized the head of the Executive Yuan for helping to undermine the importance of the environmental assessment system's public credibility and stability.

He said Lai's remarks on pending EIA committee meetings for a controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal project often contained excessive expectations, leading some members to refuse to show up in protest.

That led the nation's environmental assessment system to lose its credibility and made it harder for the system to function normally, Chan argued.

Lai and his government has pushed hard for the third LNG terminal of the country to pass environmental muster and be built so that enough LNG can be stored to support the goal of having Taiwan get 50 percent of its electricity from natural gas-fired plants, up from about 39 percent at present.

The project has been panned by environmental activists, who argue it could affect the coastal ecology at the site where state-run oil refiner CPC Corp. Taiwan plans to build the complex.

Chan wrote that his resignation was not made to reflect his stance on the LNG receiving terminal project in Taoyuan, which passed its EIA later Monday.

The project has undergone over 10 environmental assessments, and no matter how dissatisfied civil society and academics are with CPC's replies to their requests, adjustments have been made to reduce its environmental impact, he contended.

(By Ku Chuan and Elizabeth Hsu)
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