Activists collect 8,000 signatures against CLP's gas terminal plan
Environmentalists opposed to CLP Power's plans to build a gas terminal on South Soko Island have collected more than 8,000 signatures for their petition against the project.
Their opposition increased as a subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE), which falls under the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), last week failed to endorse CLP's environmental impact assessment (EIA) report and decided to seek further clarifications.
The 'No-Go-At-Soko' campaign has been initiated by WWF Hong Kong, which fears marine ecology will be sacrificed if the facility is built on South Soko Island, which lies south of Lantau Island's western tip.
CLP Power has proposed building both a terminal at South Soko and a submarine pipeline to supply gas to its power plant at Black Point, as a means to replace supplies from its depleting reserves off Hainan Island .
WWF, which has called on CLP to build the terminal at Black Point, believes that its plans to place the terminal on South Soko and build the 38km pipeline would damage key dolphin and other habitats.
'We have already attracted more than 8,000 signatures and we are encouraged by the public's response,' said Alan Leung Sze-lun, from WWF, adding that the petition would be sent to the EPD as a submission for the consultation on the EIA report ending on Thursday.
The group is also finalising its formal submission for the consultation.
Apart from the Chinese white dolphin and finless porpoise, there are at least several plant, coral and fish species of conservation interests on the site proposed by CLP, according to the WWF. These include false pillow hard coral, found along the south coast of the island, which is rare in China. It also includes amphioxus fish, which belong to the second class of protected species in China.
Plant species like the golden eulophia orchid are protected locally and need to be transplanted before construction.
An ACE subcommittee member, who asked not to be named, said last week's meeting ended with a series of outstanding issues to be addressed by CLP Power. These included the project's impact on marine mammals and its risk to humans.
CLP Power says ships carrying LNG to Black Point might approach through busy shipping channels surrounded by densely populated areas.
The power company also believes that the terminal is vital to expanding its gas-fired electricity production and minimising its reliance on coal burning as it strives to meet emission-reduction targets by 2010.
It has said that without such a facility on South Soko, it would be forced to burn more coal or even diesel, which would affect air quality. It has also rejected allegations that its gas supply from Hainan was not running out as fast as it has claimed.
Larry Chow Chuen-ho, a member of the Energy Advisory Council, believed CLP Power had no motives to misrepresent its depleting gas reserves but he suspected that a terminal on South Soko would have the potential to expand and be used to supply other markets.
'CLP Power is always at odds against Hong Kong and China Gas, as they compete for local energy market share.
'It is also possible one day that CLP Power will tap the future LNG vehicle market and take away business from oil companies.'
Li Jianhua , a Guangdong energy expert, said Hong Kong could benefit from gas imported from the mainland as it would be cheaper in terms of land and operation costs. But it all depended on how much gas Hong Kong needed, he said.