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EPA Reflects on Past Achievements on Its 36th Anniversary

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“Graduation is not the end, but a new beginning.” On 19 August the then-EPA celebrated its 36th anniversary in a “commencement” ahead of its transformation into the MOENV on 22 August. As the EPA approached the end of its long course, a special ceremony was held with the EPA’s first administrator, Eugene Chien, and the following heads, including Larry L.G. Chen, Chang Ju-en, Stephen Shu-Hung Shen, Wei Kuo-yen, and Tsai Hung-the, invited to commemorate this historic occasion. These former heads as well as many distinguished guests together witnessed and reflected upon the various milestones achieved by the EPA from its first to 36th year in the collective pursuit of protecting the environment.

All former heads served as valedictorians in the ceremony, starting with the first administrator Eugene Chien, who recalled that 36 years ago the sky over Taipei was not blue, the rivers had a dark color, and garbage was everywhere. The establishment of the EPA transformed Taiwan’s living environment, even though the outcomes of many actions carried out during his tenure were not immediately visible. Take the example of the Tamsui River, for which the EPA began remediation work in 1988, initially hoping to just eliminate foul odors. Today, the river runs clear and is suitable for dragon boat races. He also recalled that in the past it was challenging for him to represent Taiwan in the international community because of Taiwan’s low environmental quality, but now Taiwan is recognized as an outstanding performer in recycling on the global stage.

“We have graduated and come to an end, and we are proud," said Minister Chang Tzu-chin as the last minister “graduating” from the EPA on the eve of its restructuring. He emphasized that while the establishment of the MOENV may have been due to the demands in the times, it would not have been possible without the support of the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics of the Executive Yuan and the unwavering dedication of the EPA staff. The cumulative achievements over the years have further demonstrated to the society the EPA's capability to step up and become the MOENV. Minister Chang expressed his hope that, with an excellent system and regulations, the future MOENV would be able to make a more significant contribution in the face of challenges such as climate change, resource recycling, environmental management, and controls of chemical substances.

“From smog to blue skies, from warriors fighting garbage to geniuses in waste disposal -– these are all the fruits of everyone's incessant labor,” commented the Chief Secretary Yeh Chun-hung as he reflected with attendees on the EPA's journey of growth. Under the leadership of 16 ministers, the EPA undertook distinct missions in four stages of its history.

The EPA was established in 1987 in response to grassroots environmental initiatives like the Anti-DuPont protests in Lukang and the opposition to the Fifth Naphtha Cracker Project in Houjing. Administrators during the first phase led the EPA in tackling various challenges, including public nuisances, war on garbage, illegal waste disposal, air and river pollution. This period saw the formation of the Bureau of Environmental Inspection, the Recycling Fund Management Board, and the Environmental Police Force, along with legislation and enactment of the Public Nuisance Dispute Mediation Act (公害糾紛處理法), the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法), the Environmental Agent Control Act (環境用藥管理法), and the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Control Act (土壤及地下水污染整治法). Not only so, the establishment of the Air Pollution Control Fund and the Recycling Fund laid a solid foundation for the EPA.

The second phase, from 1990 to 2008, is marked with significant development with the establishment of the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Fund Management Board and the Carbon Reduction Management Office. The EPA also completed formulating the Marine Pollution Control Act (海洋污染防治法), the Resource Recycling Act (資源回收再利用法), and the Basic Environmental Law. As for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system, a legal dispute related to the EIA concerning Linne Incineration Plant resulted in a judicial recognition that EIA review conclusions were also administrative sanctions in their nature. This recognition has led to the subsequent increase in administrative remedies through litigation.

In the third phase, from 2008 to 2016, significant milestones were achieved with the enactment of the Environmental Education Act (環境教育法), the Indoor Air Quality Act (室內空氣品質管理法), and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act (溫室氣體減量及管理法). In 2010, levying began for soil and groundwater pollution remediation fees, enabling the EPA to complete remediation for all farmland pollutions across Taiwan in 2022. Then the revision of the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法) raised the maximum fine to NT$20 million for discharges that failed to meet standards, introduced clauses on confiscation of illegal gains and also protection for whistleblowers. In addition, this amendment led the way in increasing penalties for exceeding the limits regarding substances detrimental to health.

From 2016 to the present, several significant developments having taken place including the establishment of the Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau, the Climate Change Office, the Resource Cycling Office, and an preparatory office for establishment of the CCA under the MOENV. The formation of a clear and efficient EIA review system has yielded positive results, particularly in the offshore wind power sector and investments from Taiwanese businesses returning from abroad. Not only have there been record-breaking improvements in air quality, but there have also been notable achievements in promoting reduction of plastic usage at six major sources and facilitating better recycling. Even now, the MOENV continues its endeavors with the ongoing revisions of the Resource Recycling Promotion Act (資源循環促進法), aiming to maximize resource cycling and minimize waste disposal, as well as the transition toward net-zero emissions by 2050.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, August 2023

Ministry of Environment