Fuel depot can be built near steel mill: judge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 October, 2003, 12:00am

The Airport Authority yesterday received the go-ahead to build a fuel depot next to a steel mill, despite the fears of the mill's operators that it posed a safety risk by being built near its high-temperature works.

Mr Justice Michael Burrell, in the Court of First Instance, threw out the legal challenge by the mill's operator, Shiu Wing Steel - a supplier of reinforcing bars for the construction industry - on the grounds that the project was in the public interest.

The facility would consist of a 'tank farm', holding about 420,000 cubic metres of aviation fuel, and twin pipelines.

The mill has a furnace operating at a maximum temperature of 1,300 degrees Celsius, with steel bars being produced at about 600 degrees. The mill also has other high-temperature operations, including gas cutting and welding.

The company lost its challenge against the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), which on August 28 last year granted a permit for the aviation fuel facility less than 100 metres from the mill in Tuen Mun.

The judge also refused to quash an EPD decision on August 2 approving an impact report submitted by the Airport Authority for the building project.

'The balancing exercise would have tilted in the [EPD]'s favour so that this particular major designated project would have been allowed to continue in the interest of the public at large and in the interest of good administration,' Mr Justice Burrell said.

Barrister Charles Haddon-Cave, for the mill, had argued that the authority's hazard assessment failed to identify all scenarios, including a 'catastrophic failure or the instantaneous loss of 100 per cent of the tank contents'.

Mr Haddon-Cave said the two decisions of the EPD director were unlawful because the Airport Authority had failed to comply with the legal requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance.

But Mr Justice Burrell said even the reports submitted by Shiu Wing did not go so far as to say that such a '100 per cent' scenario was credible. He said it was not unreasonable that an assessment of an 'incredible scenario' should not be performed.

The fuel facility is expected to be operating by 2006.