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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 54th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 31 August 1998 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, JP (Chairman)
Mr. Barrie COOK
Miss Ann CHIANG
Mr. Clement CHEN
Mr. Paul C. H. FAN
Professor LAM Kin-che
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Ms Iris TAM
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. Plato YIP
Mr. Danny TSUI (Secretary)


Absent with Apologies:

Mr. Julian BARCLAY
Mr. CHAN Kwok-wai, JP
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, JP
Professor Peter HILLS
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Mr. Joseph LAU Man-wai, JP
Dr. LEONG Che-hung
Mr. Otto L. T. POON
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Mr. TAN Teng Huat



In Attendance:

 

Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment) (DS(E), PELB)
Mr. C W TSE Acting Deputy Director of Environmental Protection (Ag. DDEP)
Mr. C C LAY Acting Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (Conservation), Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) (Ag. AD(Cons), AFD)
Dr. Cindy LAI Assistant Director of Health (AD of H)
Miss Betty CHAN Acting Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Mr. Eugene FUNG Assistant Secretary (Environment)4, Planning, Environment & Lands Bureau (AS(E)4, PELB)
Miss Agnes KWAN Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment & Lands (Environment)
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (Environment), PELB
 
In Attendance for Agenda Item 4 :
 
Mr. Y K POON Assistant Commissioner (C Branch), Customs & Excise Department (C&ED) (AC, C&ED)
Mr. W S CHAN Acting Senior Superintendent (Marine & Land Enforcement Command), C&ED (Ag. SS, C&ED)

*********************



 

Action

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 53rd Meeting held on 27 July 1998  
 
Minutes of the 53rd meeting were confirmed.  
 
Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising  
 
Para. 4 : Informal meeting between ACE & EAC  
 
2.The Chairman asked when the EAC would be ready to hold a joint meeting with ACE to discuss the need for additional power generating capacity in Hong Kong. He also asked when ESB would be ready to brief this Council on its energy policy. AS(E)4, PELB said that ESB intended to consult the EAC on its revised paper on energy policy first before presenting it to this Council. Since the EAC had not met in the last few months and its next meeting would be in October 1998, ESB would present the energy paper to EAC around October and then to ACE afterwards. The Secretariat would seek ESB's consent to convene the joint ACE/EAC meeting in October/November. The Chairman said that since some ACE members had felt strongly about any need for additional power generating capacity in Hong Kong, he would not commit ACE to any discussion on additional power generating facilities proposed by any of the local utilities companies before ACE was thoroughly briefed by ESB on its energy policy. He asked the Secretariat to convey this message to ESB.

 












 

Secretariat

 
Para. 5 : Stepped up monitoring of the Chinese White Dolphins  
 
3.Members noted AA's response that the operation of the new airport per se would not cause any adverse impact to the Chinese White Dolphins. Also, since the ferry route between Tuen Mun & Chek Lap Kok was several kilometres away from the dolphin sanctuary, it was unlikely that the dolphins would be affected by the marine traffic. A Member said that since the dolphins' movements were not limited to the sanctuary and that the marine traffic around Chek Lap Kok would become busier once the other new ferry route plying between Discovery Bay and Chek Lap Kok came into operation shortly, it seemed premature for AA to jump to such a conclusion at this stage. The Chairman agreed and asked the Secretariat to request AA to give Members a satisfactory answer when they came to this Council in October to discuss the aircraft noise issue.

 








 

Secretariat

 
Para. 16 : Consultancy study on fisheries resources and fishing operations  
 
4.Noting that ESB was still considering the timing for briefing ACE on the findings and recommendations of the consultancy study on fisheries resources and fishing operations, the Chairman said that he would give this a push at the meeting with the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs (EA Panel) which was being arranged. In this regard, Members noted that the Secretariat was liaising with the EA Panel Secretariat to arrange the joint ACE/EA Panel meeting in late September/early October 1998.

[Post-meeting note : The Chairman of the EA Panel proposed that the meeting be held in early December as her diary was very full for the next few months.]
 
 
Paras. 40 and 43 : Flytipping hotline  
 
5.DS(E), PELB informed Members that Lands Department's Task Force (Blackspot) had already taken over from EPD the co-ordinating role in controlling flytipping activities. A press release was issued by Lands Department to publicise the new arrangements and their contact telephone numbers for reporting flytipping activities. He undertook to send a copy of the press release to Members after the meeting.
[Post-meeting note : The press release was sent to Members on 4 September 1998. Also, the Task Force would consider Members' proposal for setting up a hotline at its meeting on 11 September 1998.]

 




 

Secretariat

 
6.Members also noted that Lands D would provide a progress report to the Council on the control of flytipping activities in around six months' time.  
 
Para. 42 : Aldrich Bay Public Fill Barging Point (PFBP)  
 
7.Members noted that a permanent PFBP site on the Hong Kong Island was being identified to replace the Aldrich Bay PFBP which would be decommissioned by the end of August 1998. In the interim, two temporary PFBP sites, namely Sai Ying Pun and Quarry Bay, would, subject to no adverse reaction from the respective Provisional District Boards, commence operation by end 1999 for a period of two years. The Chairman asked and Ag. DDEP confirmed that there would be no PFBP site on the Hong Kong Island from September 1998 to end 1999. The Chairman considered this arrangement unacceptable as this would provide good excuse for waste collectors operating on the Hong Kong Island to dump the waste illegally. He said that he would raise this issue with the EA Panel during the forthcoming ACE/EA Panel meeting and hoped that the latter could help to lobby the relevant Provisional District Boards to support the construction of the two temporary PFBPs.  
 
Para.46 : Report on aircraft noise  
 
8.Members noted that the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) would submit the report in October. Apart from CAD, AA would also be present at that meeting to answer Members' queries.  
 
Agenda Item 3 : Report of EIA Subcommittee
(ACE Paper 35/98)
 
 
9.The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported that the EIA Subcommittee considered the EIA report on the Kai Tak Airport North Apron Decommissioning in August. Two main concerns had been raised at the meeting, namely the occupational safety and health of the workers who would be exposed to methane and the effectiveness of the decontamination methods proposed. For the former, he said that the EIA Subcommittee was satisfied with the recommendations of the EIA report, which recommended a much safer exposure level of methane of less than 1% and various protective measures for safeguarding the health of the workers. However, to ensure that the potential health hazard of the proposed decontamination work to the workers would be given due consideration by the relevant authorities, the EIA Subcommittee had requested the project proponent to convey their concern to the relevant authorities for consideration. As regards the latter concern, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that some members had reservations about the effectiveness of the proposed soil vapour extraction (SVE)/air sparging (AS) methods in cleaning up the contaminated areas. However, since the project proponent had undertaken to carry out a pilot test before starting the decontamination work, the Subcommittee therefore recommended the Council to endorse the EIA report subject to the following two conditions:

(a)

the project proponent should submit to the EIA Subcommittee a report on the results of the pilot test on the effectiveness of the SVE/AS methods before starting the decontamination work using these methods; and
 

(b)

the project proponent should submit to the EIA Subcommittee a report on the final soil quality of the decontaminated areas upon the completion of the remediation process before starting the proposed housing developments.
 
 
10.The Chairman proposed and Members agreed to endorse the EIA report on the two conditions as stipulated in para. 9 above.  
 
Agenda Item 4 : The Problem of Illicit Use of Diesel Oil
(ACE Paper 36/98)
 
 
11.The Chairman welcomed AC, C&ED and Ag. SS, C&ED to the meeting. AC, C&ED briefed Members on the types of diesel oil which had been illegally used, the causes and impact of its illicit use and the enforcement efforts made by C&ED.  
 
12.The Chairman asked whether the situation about the illicit use of diesel oil or marked oil had improved since the reduction of duty on light diesel oil earlier this year. AC, C&ED said that there was no evidence which showed that those who used illicit diesel oil had stopped doing so as a result of the reduction of duty on light diesel oil. He said that although the reduction of duty on light diesel oil had narrowed the price difference between duty-paid diesel oil and illicit diesel oil, the former was still more expensive than the latter. Therefore, there were still temptations for heavy users of diesel oil, particularly commercial vehicle drivers, to use illicit diesel oil in order to cut operating costs. AC, C&ED went on to say that it was difficult to estimate how much revenue had been lost as a result of the illicit use of diesel oil. Although the monthly average consumption of duty-paid diesel oil for the first seven months of 1998 had decreased to about 54.4 million litres vis-a-vis 58.6 million litres in 1997, the decrease could have been due to factors such as economic downturn rather than an increase in the use of illicit diesel oil.  
 
13.A Member said that since the only reason for people to use illicit diesel oil was the price difference, the problem could be resolved if the government could further reduce the duty on light diesel oil so as to minimise the price difference. Another Member commented that, probably because of the price control strategy of the local oil cartel, the retail price of diesel oil before tax was much more expensive in Hong Kong than elsewhere. AC, C&ED said that the main difference between the price of duty-paid diesel oil and illicit diesel oil was the duty levied upon the former.  
 
14.In response to a Member's query, AC, C&ED confirmed that there was an increasing trend in the use of marked oil by taxi operators. He said that since the possession of marked oil alone did not constitute an offence, no prosecution action could be taken against the drivers unless they were caught red-handed when filling their fuel tanks with marked oil or when marked oil was found in the fuel tanks. The Chairman suggested that it would make detection easier if chemicals could be added to marked oil so that its emission would be in a different colour. Another Member remarked that he was not aware of any chemicals which could give such an effect. A third Member said that since taxis were one of the primary users of illicit diesel oil, the early replacement of our taxi fleet to LPG taxis would significantly limit the size of the problem. The Chairman said that he was not optimistic that this could materialise in the short term as many taxi operators would be reluctant to change to LPG taxis due to the higher fuel cost incurred.  
 
15.Noting that the operation of illegal filling stations would cause adverse environmental impact to the surrounding areas, a Member asked whether it was possible for EPD to prosecute the landowners on environmental grounds so as to deter them from leasing their land/premises to operators of such illegal activities. Ag. DDEP said that since many of the illegal filling stations were mobile rather than stationary and they operated surreptitiously, even the landowners might not know that their land or premises had been used for such purposes. It would therefore be unfair to hold these innocent landowners responsible for the illegal activities carried out on their land.  
 
16.In response to a Member's queries, AC, C&ED said that there was no evidence that the illegal trading of diesel oil was associated with or controlled by any triad or syndicated criminal organisations. Also, it would not be technically feasible to distinguish a car which was using illicit diesel oil from other normal ones simply by looking at the conditions of their engines or the colour of the smoke emitted.  
 
17.A Member asked whether, as a deterrent measure, C&ED would consider confiscating vehicles which were found involved in the trading of illicit diesel oil. AC, C&ED replied that they would apply for forfeiture of all vehicles involved in serious offences under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance e.g. vehicles used for conveying or storing large quantities of illicit diesel oil, engaging in smuggling or as mobile filling station. AC, C&ED further said that since last year, a more stringent measure had been implemented. Any vehicle found using illicit diesel oil for the second time would also be detained for the purpose of applying forfeiture. The Chairman remarked that the court would be rather reluctant to confiscate these vehicles since they realized that many of these were under hire purchase payment terms and therefore the ownership remained with the financial companies. He reminded members of what a Member had said at the lasting meeting, namely that the Singapore government also had encountered difficulties in convincing their courts to confiscate vehicles involved in the illegal dumping of wastes.  
 
18.Noting that a few vessels were being prosecuted by C&ED for trading illicit diesel oil, a Member requested C&ED to let this Council know the outcome of the trial in due course (Note : The court will hear these cases on 25 September 1998). She asked and AC, C&ED clarified that the average amount of penalties imposed by the courts for offences related to the trading and use of illicit diesel oil had increased from $4,300 in 1997 to $5,600 in 1988. Also, 60 offenders received custodial sentences during the first seven months in 1998 as compared to 89 offenders who received such sentences in 1997.

 


C&ED

 
19.In response to a Member's queries, AC, C&ED said that both local and Mainland vessels had been involved in the trading of illicit diesel oil in the past. In the case of the latter, C&ED had strengthened co-operation with their Mainland counterparts to exchange intelligence and this had yielded favourable results, as manifested by the increase in the number of successful raids. Regarding the Member's proposal for using radar surveillance system to monitor the trading of illicit diesel oil at sea, as in the case of monitoring marine dumping, AC, C&ED responded that this would not be practical.  
 
20.The Chairman thanked C&ED for the efforts they had made to combat the illicit use of diesel oil. He commented that as long as there existed price difference between duty-paid and illicit diesel oil, there would be incentives for people to smuggle, trade and use illicit diesel oil. He hoped that the problem would become less acute in the long-term when LPG taxis had completely replaced diesel taxis. However, since the problem would likely continue, he requested C&ED to update Members on the latest situation again in twelve months' time.

 





 

C&ED

 
Agenda Item 5 : Any Other Business  
 
Tentative schedule of work for ACE in 1998  
 
21.Members noted the tentative schedule which was tabled.  
 
22.DS(E), PELB informed Members that the Administration would seek this Council's views on the SSDS Stage II EIA at the September meeting. The paper was being prepared and would be distributed to Members once available.  
 
Visit to Sha Chau  
 
23.Members noted that the AA would present to them the various options for the permanent Aviation Fuel Receiving Facility (AFRF) for the new airport at the September meeting. In this connection, a visit to the Sha Chau interim AFRF was scheduled for 23 September 1998. The Secretariat would inform Members of the details in due course.  
 
Paper on land decontamination policy  
 
24.A Member asked whether government had its own policy on land decontamination. DS(E), PELB undertook to prepare an information paper on this for Members' reference.

 


PELB

 
ESB's attendance at ACE  
 
25.The Chairman asked whether it would be possible to invite ESB to send a representative to audit future ACE meetings as this would contribute to the discussion of issues which would require ESB's input. DS(E), PELB undertook to sound out the Chairman's proposal with ESB.

 


 

Secretariat

 
October meeting date  
 
26.Members noted that the October meeting was rescheduled to 27 October 1998 (Tuesday).  
 
Agenda Item 6 : Date of Next Meeting  
 
27.The next meeting was scheduled for 28 September 1998.  




Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
September 1998


 

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