The revisions of the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act was brought up as a response to the government’s five food source safeguard control strategies and chemical substances safety policy. After the revisions passed the third reading in the Legislative Yuan, the Act has been renamed “the Toxic and Concerned Chemical Substances Control Act and adopted after President Tsai Ing-wen’s announcement on 16 January 2019. It will start a significant new era in chemical substance controls in Taiwan.
Clean Air” is a major environmental policy objective. Revisions of the Air Pollution Control Act were passed in the Legislative Yuan after three readings on 25 June 2018, announced for implementation by President Tsai Ing-wen on 1 August, and took effect on 3 August 2018. Five major points include additions and amendments of the good neighbor clause, the factory source control mechanism, mobile pollution control measures, harsher penalties, and importantly, pursuit of illegal gains and addition of the whistleblower clause. The revisions aim to strengthen planning for air quality improvement, pollution source control and middle management, and end-of-pipe treatment and response; holding the “National Chemical Substances Control Meeting”; setting up specific funds; shortening the time required for enterprises to notify authorities of accidents; banning online purchase of toxic and concerned chemical substances listed for control; and adding clauses regarding whistleblowers and pursuit of illegal gains. Expansion of controlled substances, strengthening of accident management, improvement of coordinating mechanisms, long-term financial considerations, and other issues of public concern have all been thoroughly improved upon. The details are as follows:
Adding “concerned chemical substances” with more thorough evaluations and controls
1. “Concerned chemical substances” added: Chemical substances, besides toxic chemicals, are evaluated to see if they should be listed for further controls, as part of an effort to expand the scope of chemical substance source controls. Based on their different characteristics, chemical substances are also placed under tiered management, such as labeling for the basic category, as well as mandatory application for approvals from competent authorities and mandatory registration of records of use. Concerning accident response, enterprises are required to submit risk prevention and response plans, have response equipment ready, and are also obligated to notify authorities and act in response when accidents occur.
2. A separate chapter devoted to “accident prevention and emergency response” has been added: During the revision review, legislators specifically paid attention to accident prevention and emergency response. Therefore, a separate chapter was added to require enterprises to submit their risk prevention and response plans to regional governments for reference. These plans are to be put online for public inquiry. A certification system was put in place for professional responder training and responding units, which focuses on prevention and preparation during normal days and providing onsite disaster relief at times of accidents to prevent harm to people and the environment.
Holding the inter-ministerial “National Chemical Substances Control Meeting” convened by the Premier through evaluations and controls
3. Organizing the “National Chemical Substances Control Meeting”: Since responsibilities for chemical substances control in Taiwan are distributed among different ministries, the EPA has worked to expand source management while coordinating with all relevant ministries. Aligning with the newly added meeting system, the premier is to convene meetings to conduct interdepartmental coordination for risk assessment and control measures for chemical substances so as to produce better results.
Setting up funds to collect “chemical substances operation fees” from enterprises
4. Setting up funds: The EPA is to collect operation fees from those handling toxic and concerned chemical substances and use the fees to set up the toxic substance and chemical substance funds. The EPA specified that the establishment of the funds helps with source management of chemical substances and helps enterprises cut the costs of accident response.
5. Shortening the time required for enterprises to give notice of occurrence of accidents: The accident notification time required for enterprises is shortened from one hour to 30 minutes. Circumstances requiring notification have also been adjusted, since in the past enterprises were only required to provide notification after pollution caused by an accident had been confirmed to affect the environment outside a factory. Now, notification is mandatory if pollutants are likely to affect the environment outside a factory, which largely increases the responsibility of enterprises as well as the response time for regional governments to act. Moreover, regarding stipulations on informing firefighting units about the layouts of factory equipment, the EPA elevated these regulations from the level of enforcement rules to that of enabling statute.
6. Banning online sales of toxic and concerned chemical substances listed for control: Sales and transfers of toxic and concerned chemical substances that are listed for control are forbidden if conducted by mail order, online purchase, or in any forms where those involved in the transaction cannot be identified. The EPA noted that there are existing penalties and regulations for sellers and buyers violating the ban, but the revisions specifically target online platforms. If not exercising due care and hence referring both sellers and buyers without permits to conduct sales, operators of said platforms will be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000, with every lapse subject to separate penalties.
7. Adding clauses concerning pursuit of illegal gains and whistleblowers: Those violating regulations under the Act will be pursued to return illegal gains on top of the original fines. Also, the EPA set a system for reporting rewards and to encourage whistleblowers to report violations. Moreover, factories are to disclose data such as permits and registrations for public supervision.
The EPA emphasized that the revisions include setting up funds to expand chemical substances control, helping enterprises lower operational risks, and ensuring environmental safety and sustainability. As for collecting chemical substances operation fees from enterprises, those characterized as potentially involving “high risks, large affected areas, and consistently in large quantity” will be the first group subject to fee collection. The EPA will formulate additional relevant laws in the future, and, before fee collection officially begins, there will be consistent and open communications with the public at each stage.
The EPA stated that it will start formulating or reviewing and amending more than 30 relevant laws. With implementation of the Act and further relevant laws, it aims to achieve the vision of effective chemical substances control and establishment of a healthy and sustainable environment.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 22(1)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)