Green groups renew warning at close of CLP consultation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2007, 12:00am

Public consultation on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for CLP Power's proposed gas terminal on South Soko Island ended yesterday with green groups highly critical of the 30-day exercise.

Friends of the Earth and the Green Lantau Association said there should have been wider debate about the need for such a terminal, but instead the public had been forced to focus only on certain aspects of the plan.

The Environmental Protection Department received more than 15,870 submissions on the assessment report, around 15,700 of them identical letters believed to be drafted by environmental group WWF.

The submissions will be considered by the director of environmental protection, Anissa Wong Sean-yee, who will decide within 30 days whether to endorse the report after hearing the views of the Advisory Council on the Environment.

Environmental groups fear Ms Wong will ignore questions such as whether the terminal is needed at all and whether there are alternative sources of gas for CLP Power to tap.

Friends of the Earth said the government was not protecting the public interest since it had not commissioned any independent study of whether CLP Power needed to build a liquefied natural gas terminal. The company argues it has to build one because its gas supplies from the Yacheng field off Hainan will be exhausted by 2011.

Friends of the Earth said the public was in the dark about the extent of the Yacheng reserves and there had not been enough study of alternative gas supplies.

'We need to clarify first if a terminal is needed before we proceed to the EIA. It is a matter of logic,' said Hahn Chu Hon-keung, WWF's environmental affairs officer.

Clive Noffke, of the Green Lantau Association, echoed that view, saying: 'Whether Hong Kong should have such a facility is never open to public consultation.'

He urged the government not to put such a strategic asset into the hands of a major oil supplier and electricity producer - oil giant ExxonMobil is a partner in the venture - and said the project should be detached from the scheme of control that regulates CLP Power's profits based on its net fixed assets.

The Conservancy Association opposed the project, citing concern for the endangered marine life around the island.

It said the government should consider building a gas terminal itself rather than entrusting the task to a private company.