New rules mean 3,000 firms will pay pollution fees in July

The China Post news staff

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) will start collecting pollution fees from operators in an additional 15 industries and business lines starting from July to increase the fund for preventing and remedying soil and groundwater pollution in Taiwan area.

The new rules were revised in February 2010 with enforcement set for July 1 this year. Under the new rules, companies engaged in 15 more industries and business lines will have to pay a fee to the Soil Pollution and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Fund established a decade earlier. They include those related to refining of aluminum, copper, oil, nickel, and steel; treatment operations for metal surface, leather, hides and furs; processing and manufacturing of chemicals, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, printed circuit boards (PCBs), and optoelectronic products.

Electricity generators and companies undertaking waste disposal and recycling operations are also added to the list. The companies will have to pay different charges depending on the level of environmental risks involving the industrial wastes created. The fees will range from NT$8 a metric ton of recyclable general industrial wastes to NT$17 for general waste, NT$83 for a ton of recyclable hazardous industrial wastes, and NT$165 for a ton of hazardous industrial wastes.

Revenues of the fund are earmarked exclusively for projects to help prevent, remediate and improve soil and groundwater pollution with an aim to ensure sustained use of soil and groundwater resources and improve the living environment in the nation. A total of NT$6.1 billion in fees was collected from land developers and other polluters during from 2002. Petrochemical companies accounted for more than 90 percent of the charges paid. In the new rules, the EPA under the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) lowered the allowable maximum rebate for imported materials, that are not used before being re-shipped abroad, to 70 percent from the present level of 95 percent. To encourage manufacturing companies and those engaged in waste disposal and recycling operations, the new regulations permit a more generous rebate up to 25 percent for the costs of installing pollution-prevention facilities and purchasing insurance coverage.

The existing rules allow a maximum 20 percent rebate for investing in pollution-prevention facilities and purchasing equipment, and just a 5 percent rebate for insurance premiums. EPA officials estimated that close to 3,000 companies will have to pay the charges starting from July, contributing an additional NT$270 million in the pollution fee each year, representing a hefty increase of 36.7 percent from now. They said the new rules would remain in force for four years, before new revisions are carried out based on suggestions and proposals from the business community and the public in the future. The officials welcome industrialists and the public to forward their suggestions to the EPA via its website for future updates to the regulations.