The government is still assessing CLP Power's claim that gas reserves in Hainan are running out, and considering whether its proposed liquefied natural gas terminal can be sited outside Hong Kong, the new environment chief said yesterday.
Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah told lawmakers his bureau had collected data about the reserve from CLP Power, but gave no details.
He was speaking as a range of groups briefed the Legislative Council's environmental affairs panel about CLP Power's proposal to build an HK$8 billion LNG terminal on South Soko Island to feed its gas-powered generator at Black Point.
CLP Power claims the terminal is needed as its Hainan reserves will run out early in the next decade and because it must increase its gas-fired generating capacity to meet 2010 emissions reduction targets Hong Kong agreed with Guangdong.
Mr Yau said the bureau had also arranged a meeting between CLP and another gas supplier.
He did not disclose the name of the supplier, but it is believed to be Sinopec, which has proposed building an LNG terminal on Huangmao Island, near Zhuhai, with the potential to supply gas to Hong Kong too.
Mr Yau said that, apart from these issues, the bureau would also consider planning and operational matters before making a decision on the Soko project.
The state of the Hainan reserves and the availability of other supply sources outside Hong Kong have been among major concerns raised by critics of the project, along with islands' status as a habitat of the threatened Chinese white dolphin.
The government has already approved an environmental impact assessment of the project, which concluded the terminal would not cause unacceptable environmental damage. The next step is final official approval of the project's business and financial plan, submitted by CLP Power.
However, mainstream green groups like the conservation group WWF have continued to challenge the project on ecological grounds, saying it might jeopardise fish stocks.