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May 29, 2017

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Taipei may appeal Beitou gondola project

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taipei's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yesterday said it will consult the executive branch on the Taipei High Administration Court's recent ruling revoking an environmental assessment of the Beitou gondola project before it decides whether or not to appeal the ruling.

The high administration court on Thursday made the ruling against the Taipei City Government, saying that not the Taipei City Government but the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) should deliberate the Beitou gondola project. The environmental assessment should be carried out by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), the court said.

The court further said that in this case, the Taipei City Government is the authority that supervises the project and also the co-developer of the project and that the city therefore may have a conflict of interest concerning the construction firm.

The court added that as the environmental assessment was carried out by the city's Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee, there may have been a conflict of interest there as well.

The DEP responded to the court's ruling by saying that the city carried out the project and the environmental assessment for it in accordance with regulations and with the consent of the MOI and the EPA. The department stressed that it did not override the central government's authority.

The DEP said it will soon consult the MOI and EPA over the issue once it receives the court's official ruling.

Activists Urge Taipei not to Appeal

Several civic groups on Thursday jointly held a press conference, saying that they appreciate the high court's ruling revoking the environmental assessment. The groups urged Taipei City not to appeal against the ruling and halt the construction of the Beitou gondola project immediately.

Activist Chen Ping-chen (陳品臻) said there are many historical buildings in Beitou District, noting that constructing the gondola will have negative effects in the district.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) city councilor Wu Su-yao (吳思瑤) commented on the ruling, saying that justice has finally arrived. Wu further argued politics are "apparently" involved in Taipei's environmental assessment of the gondola project.

The city government decided to carry out the Beitou gondola development project in 1998 and contracted out the project to a local construction consortium in 2005. The construction firm and then-deputy minister of the Interior Yen Wan-ching (顏萬進) was involved in bribery case in 2006.

Despite the bribery case and the ongoing protest raised by local residents and environmental activists, the city in 2012 gave conditional approval to an environmental assessment of the Beitou gondola.

In light of this, local residents in the same year sued the Taipei City Government for approving a flawed environmental assessment for the project.

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