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Bridge promoters accused of taking wrong approach

Hong Kong Standard – 1 Sept. 2011

Environmental permits for key elements of the proposed Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macau bridge would not have been granted, it is argued, if its government promoters had used the usual and traditional approach to forecast air quality.

This is a main finding of think-tank Civic Exchange concerning the controversial judicial review of the project.

The Court of Appeal has yet to set a date for delivering a verdict on a government appeal against a lower court ruling that quashed the environmental permits for two elements of the project.

Environmental lawyer David Renton, who authored a paper on the issue for the group, said the usual baseline is a five-year average of the most recent monitored air quality data available at the time of an assessment.

But the proponent of the bridge project, the Highways Department, used a computer model called PATH – for Pollutants in the Atmosphere and their Transport over Hong Kong – to predict background air quality instead of using monitored data to set the baseline.

Renton said impact-assessment reports on the project show the five-year average of the most recent data for the pollutants nitrogen dioxide and respirable suspended particulate around Tung Chung already near air quality objectives – AQOs, or limits Hong Kong has set.

Bridge-linked projects are boundary- crossing facilities on reclaimed land off Chek Lap Kok and a link road.

Had these figures been used as the baseline for the assessment, Renton said, the bridge’s cumulative impact would have caused air quality to exceed the objectives after the extra pollution produced by the projects and other sources were taken into account.

The director of environmental protection “could not have granted the projects an environmental permit in the face of an EIA report showing air quality would exceed the AQOs,” Renton said.

Civic Exchange head of environmental strategy Mike Kilburn added: “We don’t know what is in the [PATH] model and what data is used to run [it].”

The model was developed by the Environmental Protection Department as a tool for predicting the impact of various emissions reduction strategies being pursued by Hong Kong and Guangdong authorities on air quality in the SAR.

The Court of First Instance in April ruled for Tung Chung resident Chu Yee- wah, 65, who filed for a judicial review saying assessments were not done properly and the director’s decisions to grant permits should be quashed.

Greens aim to land further runway talks

Samson Lee

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Green groups strongly opposed to a third runway have urged the Airport Authority to hold a second round of consultations.

Previously, the activists had been insisting the authority suspend a three- month consultation exercise, which is scheduled to end tomorrow.

The authority met yesterday with a coalition of environmental groups in Central.

After a 3 hour closed-door meeting in the morning, the coalition told reporters they were sticking by their position not to support the third runway option until their demand for social impact assessments is met.

“We hope there is a second round of consultations,” said Chan May-ling, chief executive for Friends of the Earth Hong Kong, and spokeswoman for the green groups.

Chan said groups were disappointed that authority chief executive Stanley Hui Hon-chung did not show up as promised, sending only his deputy – executive director of airport operations Howard Eng Kiu-chor – to represent him.

“I was disappointed that Hui did not come to meet us. I expected to see him,” Green Sense president Roy Tam Hoi- pong said.

During the meeting, the coalition of 10 green groups, including the WWF, Greenpeace, and Conservation Association, demanded the authority conduct an impact assessment on social costs, including public health, before they pursue further discussions.

“Currently, it is hard for the public and us to decide based on the consultation paper because there is no information about the social costs we will face through the third runway proposal,” Greeners Action executive director Angus Ho Hon-wai said.

The green groups warned they may escalate their opposition if the authority does not look favorably on their demands within a month.

An Airport Authority spokeswoman said this is the third round-table briefing with the green groups, all chaired by Eng.

“Hui attended the previous briefings as a bystander,” she said, adding he was engaged in other matters yesterday

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