Reviewers of the Thepa coal-fired power plant’s environmental and health impact assessment (EHIA) have defended their decision to approve the controversial report, which they deem to contain enough information to be forwarded for consideration by the National Environment Committee.
Raweewon Bhuridej, secretary-general of the Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning Office (ONEP), on Sunday explained via a statement that the report’s preparation had followed all necessary procedures according to law and contained all the information required – and had therefore been approved.
She issued the statement following residents from Songkhla’s Thepa district having travelled to Bangkok to protest over the approval of the coal-fired plant’s EHIA report.
She said the approval of the committee of experts did not mean that the project would get the green light to start construction, but the panel’s decision would be used in the project’s consideration by the National Environment Committee and the Cabinet, which is the procedure as set out in the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act.
She added that the experts committee had reviewed the report since October 2015 and held meetings to listen to both sides of the argument for and against the project on six occasions.
In the latest meeting on August 17, the panel also considered information from the three opposition groups, alongside information from the project owner, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).
Having taken everything into consideration, the experts concluded that the EHIA report on the 2,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant contained sufficient information for consideration by the National Environment Committee, approved the report and asked Egat to write a complete report on the project for presentation to the National Environment Committee, Raweewon explained.
She stated that in regard to people’s worry that the EHIA study had not involved proper public participation, Egat had conducted three public hearings of all stakeholders in the project.
Furthermore, in all stages of the process for considering the report, ONEP had been open for all sides to submit information and concerns, all of which had been considered by the experts committee, she stressed.
Meanwhile, as to the protesters’ argument that the information in the report on the ecosystem nearby the project site was inaccurate, the experts had visited the site on December 4, 2015 and found that the project plan contained a proper pollution-prevention and monitoring system as per the committee’s suggestion, the official said.
As the committee had also carefully reviewed the EHIA report six times, it was approved, she added.