After preannouncing the draft amendments to the Air Pollution Control Act on 23 June 2017, the EPA collected public opinion by holding three hearings. The draft was then revised and submitted to the Executive Yuan on 31 October. The draft amendments were approved by the Executive Yuan on 14 December and sent to the Legislative Yuan on 22 December, however, the amendments did not enter the agenda of the 2017 session. In response to the public’s demand for clean air, EPA Minister Ying-Yuan Lee recently visited the Legislative Yuan, which agreed to include the revisions as a priority in the coming review session, in order to expedite the legislation process.
The amendments focus on harsher penalties, a whistleblower mechanism, environmental information disclosure, and enhancement of public participation. Details include increasing penalties, raising fees for violations, recovering illegal gains, providing rewards to encourage reporting illegal activities, and designating air quality zones. Other measures include implementing controls on mobile pollution sources, adding controls on mobile sources besides transportation, controls for chemicals containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), information disclosure, and more.
Major amendments to the Air Pollution Control Act
To formulate regulations concerning emergency response and total quantity control (TQC) for severe air quality deterioration, the Act requires participation of all relevant authorities. Amendments are based on legislative procedures, discussions and public hearings to which stakeholders and related ministries were invited to attend – which are all necessary in order to ensure comprehensive and mutual understanding.
The main amendments are as follows:
1. For Class 3 Control Zones, the EPA shall set standards for local environmental bureaus to follow concerning the mandatory pollution emission reduction for existing sources. Also, air pollution control plans formulated by local environmental bureaus are to be approved by the EPA.
2. For existing pollution sources located in TQC zones that do not meet air quality standards, regulations are newly added for authorization of pollution reduction credit auctions.
3. Emission standards are added for air pollutants in public and private premises. Health risk factors should be taken into consideration for the inclusion of regulated harmful air pollutants into the emission standards.
4 . When for mulating regulations for the establishment of new stationary pollution sources and operating permits, the EPA is authorized to use unified evaluation principles nationwide. Considering air quality improvement requires the planning and management of local governments, the current regulations concerning the commissioning of other governmental authorities to handle permit applications and extensions have been deleted.
5. Controls on fuels and other air pollution-causing substances are to be separated, so fuels used in stationary pollution sources at public and private premises will have to meet fuel standards and require specific permits. The qualifications to obtain permits to use other air pollution-causing substances have also been established.
6. When evaluating permit extensions, local environmental bureaus shall adhere to the newly added emission standards for stationary source pollutants that are required to be reduced. The EPA- approved air pollution control plans shall also be followed when calculating emissions pertaining to permit issuance as well as to specify valid permit extension periods.
7. Controls are added for mobile pollution sources other than transportation vehicles, and bans placed on the installation of emission defeat devices on vehicles. In addition, taking into account the wearing out of acceleration systems and pollution control devices, the EPA may tighten emission standards for vehicles manufactured more than ten years ago to better keep emissions under control.
8. Pollution-control equipment for mobile sources needs to be certified by the EPA.
9. New regulations are added to authorize competent authorities to designate air quality control zones in ports and industrial zones. Furthermore, use of highly polluting vehicles is limited, while their phase-out will be accelerated.
10. The manufacturing, import and sale of VOCcontaining products should meet the EPA’s ingredient standards.
11. The minimum criminal penalty is specified, while maximum criminal sentences and fine limits are raised. An index for exceeding standards is specified for harmful air pollutants in emissions, and punishments are detailed for burning materials that produce harmful substances.
12. With the Water Pollution Control Act ( 水污染防制 法 ) as reference, the amount of fines are increased ten-fold. The range of penalized targets is also expanded.
13. Maximum fines for violations are raised.
14. A new dual mechanism is established to both recover illegal gains and impose fines. Fines are collected when fuel sellers and importers or public and private enterprises do not file and pay air pollution control fees according to regulations. This revenue, along with illegal gains recovered by competent authorities, should only be used on air pollution control and also as special control funds.
15. Penalties are issued based on each violation committed instead of violations on consecutive days.
16. The minimum penalty is adjusted to lessen the burden on disadvantaged citizens and impose lighter punishment for minor offenses.
17. Heavier fines are imposed for manufacturing, selling, or installing emission defeat devices.
18. Cash rewards are put in place to encourage citizens to report illegal activities at public and private premises.
19. The EPA takes references from foreign examples of protecting whistleblowers and state witnesses and the Water Pollution Control Act to encourage corporate employees to report illegal practices.
For factory emissions, the amendments start with regulating fuel components, placing pollution controls at both the source and the end of emission pipes. For emissions from mobile sources, the EPA will authorize regional environmental bureaus to designate air quality control zones in order to limit or ban the use of highly polluting transportation.
To raise penalties and ensure that everyone responsible is penalized, those failing to file and pay air pollution control fees as mandated will be tracked for five years and pay twice the amount. Regional environmental bureaus are required to set reduction goals for pollution sources based on the guidelines for pollutant emission reduction. Also, for violators who fail to improve by given deadlines, penalties will be imposed based on each violation committed instead of by consecutive days of violations.
In an attempt to stop business and industrial establishments from violating the Air Pollution Control Act and affecting public health, the heaviest fine is raised from NT$1,000,000 to NT$20,000,000. The EPA has specified limits for emissions of harmful pollutants as well as penalties for burning materials that produce specified substances hazardous to health. The maximum fines are increased ten-fold for legal persons or individuals, with an expanded range of regulatory targets.
Premier Ching-Te Lai expressed that air pollution improvement needs action plans to be implemented, on top of regulatory revisions. Therefore, each department of the Executive Yuan would be required to actively participate and also assist and supervise regional governments to jointly carry out air pollution control work.
Minister Lee promised to collect air pollution fees for particulate pollutants from stationary sources, and the fee collection is expected to begin in July 2018, at the earliest. In the future, the EPA and the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) will comb through all pollution emissions produced by state-run corporations before reducing them by 25% in three years. It is hoped that via both economic incentives and pollution reduction measures, improvement of air quality will be hastened.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)