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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 91st Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 17 December 2001 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Barrie COOK  
Prof. Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Mr. Edward S. T. HO, SBS, JP  
Mr. KWOK Kwok-chuen, BBS  
Prof. Dennis S. C. LAM  
Mr. Peter Y. C. LEE, SBSt.J  
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, GBS, JP  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Mrs. Mei NG  
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP  
Mr. Otto L. T. POON (Deputy Chairman of EIA Subcommittee)  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Ms Iris TAM  
Miss Alex YAU  
Ms. Jessie WONG (Secretary)  




Absent with Apologies:
Mr. Daniel M. C. CHENG
Prof. Peter HILLS
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Prof. LAM Kin-che
Mr. Edwin C. K. LAU
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Prof. WONG Yuk-shan, JP
Mr. LOH Ah Tuan



 

In Attendance:

Mr. Thomas CHOW Deputy Secretary (C), Environment and Food Bureau (EFB) (DS(C)/EFB)
Mr. Donald TONG Deputy Secretary (B), EFB (DS(B)/EFB)
Mr. Rob LAW, JP Director of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Mr. LEE Tak-keung Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department (PlanD)
Dr. Constance CHAN Assistant Director, Department of Health
Mr. Cary HO Senior Forestry Officer, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)
Mrs. Pauline LING Chief Information Officer, EFB
Miss Natalia LEUNG Senior Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (C), EFB
Ms. Cora SO Executive Officer (C), EFB



In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Mr. Howard CHAN Principal Assistant Secretary (C)1, EFB (PAS(C)1/EFB)
Mr. W C MOK Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Motor Vehicle Emissions), EPD (PEPO(MV)/EPD)



In Attendance for Agenda Item 5

Mr. B S CHOW General Manager, Aviation Franchise, Airport Authority (AA) (GM(AF)/AA)
Mr. Amin EBRAHIM Group Manager, Aviation Franchise, AA (GpM(AF)/AA)
Mr. Bill ROBERTS Engineering Manager, AA (EM/AA)
Mr. Martin PUTNAM Assistant Environmental Manager, AA
Miss Tonya KAM Community Relations Manager, AA
Mr. Steve JONES Director of Environmental Consultancy, Mouchel Asia Ltd (MAL)
Miss Helen COCHRANE Project Manager, MAL



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Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 90th Meeting held on 27 November 2001

Members confirmed the draft minutes subject to the amendment to paragraph 9 of the draft as proposed by Ms. Iris Tam and agreed by Dr. Ng Cho-nam.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 5: Meeting with LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

2. The Chairman informed Members that he attended an informal meeting with the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs on 3 December 2001 together with Prof. Lam Kin-che, Messrs Otto Poon, Lin Chaan-ming and Daniel Cheng, Miss Alex Yau and the Council Secretary, Ms Jessie Wong. The main issues discussed included the charging scheme for solid waste and sewage, EIA mechanism, development of environmental industry in Hong Kong, functions of the Council for Sustainable Development to be set up and its relationship with ACE, and cross-border cooperation on environmental protection. It was agreed with the Panel that such meeting should be held twice a year in future.

Agenda Item 3 : Report of the 54th EIA Subcommittee Meeting
(ACE Paper 48/2001)

3. The Deputy Chairman of EIA Subcommittee reported the views and the recommendation of the EIA Subcommittee on the EIA report on "Demolition of Kwai Chung Incineration Plant".

4. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, the Deputy Chairman of EIA Subcommittee explained that under the conventional top down demolition method the chimney would be taken down brick by brick. It would not involve the use of explosives as in the blasting method adopted for the demolition of the CLP Tsing Yi Chimneys.

5. Considering that the removal and disposal of asbestos was the major environmental concern of the project, the Chairman enquired about the quantity of asbestos needed to be handled and the proposed removal and disposal method. The Deputy Chairman of EIA Subcommittee replied that asbestos-containing materials (ACM) were found in the chimney and some other areas of the incineration plant. The removal and disposal of the ACM would be handled by Registered Asbestos Contractors adopting the methods prescribed in the relevant ordinance and code of practice. DEP confirmed that the procedures would be controlled in the manner prescribed by law.

 

6. A Member informed Members that an insignificant amount of dioxin-contaminated ash was found in the chimney. The treatment and disposal of such ash was not a major issue in view of its small quantity. However, there was grave concern about the disposal of the dioxin generated during the operation of the incineration plant. In response, DEP said that he was not sure how dioxin was handled years ago when the plant was in operation. He would check with the Electrical & Mechanical Services Department and inform Members in due course.

7. On this point, a Member said it would be useful to find out the methods and practices adopted by other countries in handling such contaminants. DEP responded that there were now specified requirements regarding the handling of such contaminants but for those that were produced decades ago, he suspected that they might have been landfilled.

8. A Member said that at the EIA Subcommittee meeting she pointed out the need for more caution in disposing of even a small amount of dioxin-contaminated ash. She also noted that there were many ways to dispose of ACM and urged the Administration to revisit the protocol for decommissioning facilities with ACM.

9. The Chairman pointed out that the concerns raised by two Members were not within the scope of the present project though they should be brought to the attention of the Administration. He proposed and Members agreed to endorse the EIA report without conditions as recommended by the EIA Subcommittee.

Agenda Item 4 : Making Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) the Statutory Standard for Motor Diesel - Proposed Amendments to Air Pollution Control Ordinance, Cap. 311
(ACE Paper 49/2001)

10. The Chairman welcomed PAS(C)1/EFB and PEPO(MV)/EPD to the meeting. PAS(C)1/EFB briefed Members on the proposal.

11. Noting that cheaper but lower grade diesel was available in the Mainland, the Chairman enquired about on-going actions to prevent Hong Kong vehicles from using such illegal lower grade diesel in Hong Kong.

12. In response, PAS(C)1/EFB said that the Customs & Excise Department (C&ED) had been implementing stringent control measures limiting the amount of fuel that cross-boundary goods vehicles carried into Hong Kong and had taken even more vigorous enforcement actions since 2000. The fine for using illegal diesel was increased from HK$200,000 to HK$1,000,000. A provision for disqualification of driving licence for repeated offenders was imposed. A presumption clause that light diesel oil found in the fuel tank of a motor vehicle with a sulphur content in excess of the statutory limit was presumed dutiable was also introduced. Those actions had proved effective. There was a significant drop in the quantity of illegal diesel seized and in the number of black spots of illegal diesel filling activities. The quantity of illegal diesel seized dropped from 8.27M litres in 1999 to 4.35M litres in 2000 and further to 1.03M litres for the first nine months in 2001. The number of black spots dropped from 110 in 1999 to 50 in 2000 and further reduced to 35 in recent months. .

13. In response to a Member's enquiry, PAS(C)1/EFB said that at present cross boundary vehicles entering Hong Kong from the Mainland were allowed to fill up no more than 3/4 of their tank.

14. In reply to the Chairman's enquiry, PAS(C)1/EFB said that vehicles in southern China were using diesel of pre-Euro standard with a sulphur content of about 0.35%. The standard would be upgraded in January 2002 to Euro I level which had a sulphur content of not more than 0.2%. A Member supplemented that in future trucks of newer emission systems could not operate smoothly with lower grade diesel. The drivers would have to use ULSD even though they could get lower grade diesel in the Mainland at a cheaper price.

15. A Member supported the proposal from the medical and health point of view. He informed the meeting that the results of two research studies which showed the relationship between health and sulphur emissions from motor vehicles would soon be released.

16. A Member asked whether Hong Kong was under pressure to allow more Mainland vehicles to enter the territory and if so, he was concerned that lower grade diesel had to be made available in Hong Kong for those vehicles. In response, the Chairman said that since those vehicles could use ULSD, provision of lower grade diesel would not be necessary. PAS(C)1/EFB said that the mileage in Hong Kong of cross-boundary vehicles was low and there was no pressure for Hong Kong to provide lower grade diesel.

17. A Member supported the proposal and commended the Administration's initiative. She said that recent scientific researches showed that acid rain had become a serious problem in southern China and that reducing the sulphur content in vehicle emissions would help ease the situation. In that regard, she asked about the progress of cooperation with the Mainland to improve regional air quality. In response, PAS(C)1/EFB said that the Administration agreed with the Guangdong authority in October 2001 to reach consensus on options to implement long-term measures to improve regional air quality by April 2002. Details would be announced around that time. He added that ULSD was introduced into Hong Kong five years ahead of the European Union. Another Member said that at present the general public thought that pollutants originated from the Mainland was the source of air pollution in Hong Kong. She considered that the Government should clarify the actual cause and make known to the public our achievement in improving air quality.


EPD

18. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, DS(C)/EFB undertook to re-circulate the paper on the progress of the work done by the Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection.

19. The Chairman concluded that the Council supported the proposal.

Agenda Item 5 : Update on the Progress of the Permanent Aviation Fuel Facility for Hong Kong International Airport
(ACE Paper 50/2001)

20. The Chairman welcomed GM(AF)/AA and his presentation team to the meeting. GM(AF)/AA briefed Members on the updates of the site selection for the permanent aviation fuel facility (PAFF). He said that a visit to Tuen Mun Area 38 and other relevant sites would be arranged for Members in due course if they were interested.

21. The Chairman said that, based on the information presented, he would agree that Tuen Mun Area 38 would be the most suitable site for the PAFF. However, he asked if the possibility of using the ash lagoons of the China Light and Power Co Ltd for the PAFF had been explored. In response, GpM(AF)/AA said that the Airport Authority (AA), in collaboration with the Government, had discussed with China Light & Power and its major shareholder for Castle Peak Power Station, Exxon Mobil, on the feasibility of co-locating the PAFF with the Castle Peak Power Station. However, based on the findings of an one-year study, the two facilities were incompatible for co-location. In response, the Chairman said that the AA should be fully prepared to answer queries from the public in that regard.

22. A Member noted that the Mainland would build its largest oil refinery plant in southern China and asked whether that would affect the choice of aviation fuel supply and in turn the routes of the barges carrying the fuel. She also asked whether the forecast of marine traffic in that area had taken into account future port development and whether the risk arising from all relevant future developments had been assessed. She was also concerned whether the impacts arising from the future expansion of the Airport had been considered.

23. In response to a Member's enquiries, GpM(AF)/AA explained that at present 85% of the aviation fuel came from Singapore while the remaining 15% from the Mainland. It was anticipated that the ratio would remain unchanged in the foreseeable future. As regards marine traffic, EM/AA said that a quantitative risk assessment had been conducted on the routing of vessels to the jetty at Tuen Mun Area 38. The forecast of marine traffic up to 2011 and throughout the estimated life span of the PAFF (50 years) was covered in the assessment. It was expected that the aviation fuel traffic frequency in Ma Wan Channel would reduce due to the increased capacity of vessels. A marine traffic impact assessment would be undertaken very shortly. EM/AA also confirmed that the capacity and the design of the PAFF had made allowance for the future expansion of the Airport and port developments.

24. A Member asked whether the impacts on fuel supply after China joined the World Trade Organisation had been considered. In response, GpM(AF)/AA said that currently the fuel price was US$1.4 per gallon in the Mainland and US$0.8 per gallon in Hong Kong. Due to increasing demand, the Mainland might in future have to rely on imported fuel for its own use. Hence, the Mainland's fuel supply to Hong Kong was expected to drop. GM(AF)/AA supplemented that the AA adopted an "open access system" for the purchase of aviation fuel. In other words, an airline could buy its own fuel from any source it wished.

25. Considering the risk to the residents living near Tuen Mun Area 38, a Member asked whether AA had considered making use of the proposed bridge linking Zhuhai and Lantau for transporting aviation fuel across the border and then locating the PAFF in the Mainland. In response, GM(AF)/AA explained that the Government had decided that the PAFF should be located within the boundary of Hong Kong. The AA had exhausted all possible sites within Hong Kong waters, details of which had been presented to ACE in the past few years. In addition, since the handling capacity of the temporary facility at Sha Chau would reach saturation by the end of 2005, it would be too late to build the PAFF after the details of the proposed bridge had been confirmed. GpM(AF)/AA supplemented that the current aviation fuel demand was 12,000 m3/day. The estimated ultimate demand would increase to 30,000 m3/day. It would be impracticable to meet the fuel demand by land transport even if the proposed bridge would allow transportation of dangerous goods on it.

26. A Member pointed out that the temporary facility at Sha Chau was originally intended to operate for two and a half years only. He agreed that the PAFF should be set up as soon as possible.

27. Noting that Sha Chau was within a Marine Park, a Member wondered why AA proposed to keep the facility there for emergency use, and why backup facility could not be incorporated in the PAFF. In reply, GM(AF)/AA said that the purpose of the backup facility was to ensure uninterrupted supply of aviation fuel to the Airport in case the PAFF broke down or the aviation fuel was contaminated. EM/AA supplemented that the jetty at the PAFF might be temporarily put out of service in the event of an accident and therefore it was necessary to have available a backup facility in another location.

28. A Member asked how often aviation fuel was contaminated and what had been done to address the risk of using contaminated fuel. She also enquired about the life span of the existing pipeline and whether any maintenance would be needed during its life and if so, the impact on the seabed. In response, GpM(AF)/AA said that there were two cases of contaminated fuel in 1995 and one in 1998. If the fuel were found to be contaminated, it would be discharged through the backup facility. The life span of the existing pipeline was 50 years which was approximately the same as that of the PAFF. EM/AA supplemented that it was most unlikely that any maintenance would be needed to the buried subsea pipeline during its life span.

29. A Member agreed with EM/AA's point that the vessels might hit and damage the jetty by accident at any time and such accidents did occur in the past. He said that since the 1980s such type of facilities had been planned for Tuen Mun area and the site selected was not an unreasonable one having balanced all factors involved. He also agreed that transporting large quantities of aviation fuel on the road was impracticable. He considered that for goods of strategic importance like aviation fuel, there was a need to diversify the sources of supply rather than relying on one or two major sources.

30. The Chairman invited the views of green group representatives on whether they considered it reasonable to retain the facility at Sha Chau for backup purpose. A Member said that personally he considered that relocating the facility might necessitate the building of a new pipeline which might cause more impacts to the marine environment. Another Member wished to reserve her comments until a full EIA report was available. However, she recalled that when the area was designated as a Marine Park, the understanding was that the fuel facility at Sha Chau was temporary in nature.

31. A Member referred to para. 21 of the paper and enquired about the actions taken by AA to "fast-track" the project. Regarding the pipeline for the PAFF, she asked whether there were other construction methods that would have minimum impacts on the marine environment and whether the operation of the fuel facility would require regular maintenance dredging. Lastly, she wondered whether the overall weighting for Sham Shui Kok in Table 4 of the paper should be of positive value.

32. In response, GM(AF)/AA said that the word "fast-tracking" was slightly misleading. He ensured Members that the actions taken were in line with the established procedures and all statutory requirements. He also confirmed that the figure in Table 4 should be positive. EM/AA said that the current proposed method for pipeline construction was trench and cover with rock armour. Other methods like horizontal directional drilling, and ploughing the pipe into marine mud were being explored and it was concluded with respect to ploughing, that this method would not allow rock armour protection to be provided.

33. The Chairman thanked AA for the updates and urged them to pay attention to the risk assessment of the cumulative impacts of the project on marine traffic.

Agenda Item 6 : Any Other Business

Report on ACE's visit to Europe

34. The Chairman said that the study visit to Europe was a useful exercise to foster exchanges among Members and recommended that the Council should continue to organize similar activities in the future. He then highlighted the conclusions of the visit findings as follows:
 

  (a) BAF was demonstrated as a viable process for sewage treatment but the Administration would need to identify the most suitable form for Hong Kong;
  (b) the delegation gained a better understanding about the risks in major sewage treatment plants and how to overcome them so as to ensure a normal operation;
  (c) although enhanced chemical treatment of sewage was a faster process, more sludge would be produced;
  (d) incineration of sludge was viable but would require lots of energy;
  (e) to allow maximum flexibility for potential contractors to utilize the latest technology in wastewater treatment, Government should place emphasis on the outcome rather than the inputs when conducting the tendering exercise;
  (f) desirable results of operation of treatment plants could only be achieved by refining the process over time; and
  (g) the EIA process in Hong Kong was highly commendable when compared with systems in other countries.

35. A Member commented that it was worth investing in the design of facilities like incinerators and sewage treatment plants as it would create a better visual impact and in turn make them more acceptable to the public. The Chairman added that contractors of similar projects in other countries would play a major role in persuading the local community to accept the facilities. It was not solely a Government effort. On public acceptance, that Member pointed out that offering some advantages to the local community like a lower treatment charge would smoothen the lobbying process. He suggested the Administration consider a similar approach.

36. In response to a Member's enquiry, about the function and operation of sustainable development institutions in countries visited by the delegation, another Member said that the meeting with Sir Crispin in London was short and inconclusive. That Member informed the meeting that in Norway there was no institutional arrangement to oversee sustainable development. That was probably due to the Norwegian political structure that some members of the Parliament would personally advise the prime minister on that subject.

37. A Member noted from page 8 of the report that incinerated sludge were disposed of at landfills and was concerned about the disposal method in Hong Kong as the capacity of landfills was running out. In response, DEP said that at present the sludge was stabilized by mixing with domestic waste before disposal at landfills. However, if the waste reduction scheme were successful, the quantity of domestic waste would reduce and become inadequate for such purpose. That was one of the reasons why most countries had resorted to incineration to handle the sludge.


EFB

38. The Chairman proposed and Members agreed that copies of the visit report would be passed to the Administration and the Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs for reference. A copy should also be put onto ACE's Website. A Member also suggested that a copy be handed to the Monitoring Group on Trials and Studies for the HATS for information.

Green Council

39. A Member noted the recent establishment of an eco-labeling scheme by the Green Council whose objectives were to formulate guidelines/practices on the labeling of green products. She suggested that the subject be discussed at a future meeting. She would like to know the Government policy on the establishment of such eco-labeling schemes; composition of the Green Council's assessment panel for the scheme; the assessment criteria/standards adopted and the transparency of the standards; the health/safety standards that the labeling scheme was based on; the liability of the Green Council, if any, in that scheme; the enforceability of the scheme; and the Green Council's relationship with the Consumer Council, etc.

40. The Chairman suggested inviting the Green Council to brief Members on its eco-labeling scheme at a future meeting. A Member declared interest as an ExCo member of the Green Council and said that the Council could extend an invitation to the Green Council for consideration. He considered that some of the previous Member's concerns should be addressed by the Administration.

41. In response, DS(B)/EFB said that the labeling scheme set up by the Green Council was a private sector initiative. As long as the scheme operated within the confines of the law, it would not be appropriate for the Government to interfere with its operations. The existence of the eco-labeling scheme would not prevent other organizations from establishing their own labeling schemes. DEP added that in other countries, different eco-labeling schemes co-existed and most of them were private sector initiatives. He felt that the Green Council's work should be applauded as it raised the public awareness on green products and educated the public to select green products.

Seasonal greeting

42. The Chairman wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Secretariat

ACE Secretariat
December 2001

 

 


 

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