Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1)775/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref: CB1/PL/EA

LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting
held on Friday, 6 November 1998, at 10:45 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Christine LOH (Chairman)
Hon HUI Cheung-ching (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Non-Panel members attending :

Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming

Members absent :

Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon LAW Chi-kwong, JP

Public officers attending :

For items V and VI

Acting Deputy Secretary for Planning,
Environmental and Lands (Environment)

For item V

Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services

Mr Elvis AU
Acting Assistant Director of Environmental Protection
(Environmental Assessment)

General Manager / Development and Planning
Hong Kong Electric Co. Ltd.

For item VI

Mr Benny Y K WONG
Assistant Director of Environmental

Principal Environmental Protection Officer

By invitation :

Powerful Coalition

Friends of The Earth (HK)

Ms Trini LEUNG Wing-yue
Green Lamma

Ms Betty HO
Executive Committee member of the
Conservancy Association

Ms Noel CHAN Wai-wah
Campaign Officer
of the Conservancy Association

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Mrs Mary TANG,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)2

I Confirmation of minutes of meeting
(LC Paper No. CB(1)388/98-99)

The minutes of meeting on 5 October 1998 were confirmed.

II Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2. Members agreed to discuss the subject of "Study on indoor air pollution in offices and public places" at the next regular Panel meeting scheduled for 11 December 1998 at 10:45 am after an informal meeting with the Advisory Council on the Environment at 9:30 am.

(Post-meeting note: The Chairman suggested including the subject of "Lautau Conservation Strategy" into the agenda for the next regular meeting.)

III Matters arising from the meeting on 26 October 1998

3. The Chairman informed that pursuant to members' request at the meeting on 26 October 1998 concerning the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS), the Administration agreed -

  1. to consult the Mainland authorities on providing members with the minutes of meetings at which SSDS was discussed;

  2. to provide an update on the comparison between centralised and distributed sewage treatment systems; and

  3. to provide information on the plan to materialise the undertaking made by the Secretary for the Treasury that the operating and maintenance costs of sewage services were to be borne equally by the Administration and polluters in 2001-2002.

4. Regarding Miss CHOY So-yuk's suggestion of forming a subcommittee under the Panel, the Chairman said that it would be more preferable to await the Administration's response before deciding on the way forward. Dr LEONG Che-hung had reservations over the formation of a subcommittee to study SSDS because the subject was of interest to many Panel members. Dr LEONG said that in anticipation of a large number of important bills to be introduced into the Legislative Council, members must seriously consider the need and the workload in deciding whether or not a subcommittee should be formed. Members agreed that if further meetings were considered necessary upon receipt of the Administration's response, this should be followed up by the Panel.

(Post-meeting note : the Administration's response was circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)513/98-99).

IV Information papers issued since last meeting

5. Members noted that no information paper had been issued since the last meeting.

V The proposal of Hong Kong Electric Company Limited to build a new power generating facility at Lamma Island

Meeting with the Powerful Coalition

(LC Paper Nos. CB(1)430/98-99(01) - petition from Powerful Coalition; CB(1)430/98-99(02) - submission to Office of the Ombudsman from Friends of the Earth; and CB(1)430/98-99(03) - submission from Conservancy Association)

6. At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr Eric WALKER, spokesman for the Powerful Coalition and representative of the Friends of the Earth (FOE), said that Hong Kong would be decommissioning many old power generating equipment and rebuilding new facilities by the year 2006. He stressed that the decision on energy strategy would have a serious impact on future generations. According to Mr WALKER, the problem with the energy policy was that the wrong incentives were provided. The scheme of control had been rewarding over-capacity instead of saving energy. He called for a revamp of the energy policy.

7. Mr WALKER then briefly went over FOE's complaint to the Ombudsman against the Economic Services Bureau for maladministration in the management of the electricity scheme of control and said that a copy of the annexes to the complaint, which was voluminous, had been deposited with the LegCo Secretariat for members' reference. He informed members of some overseas practices in dealing with energy planning which took into account the need for environmental protection, economic benefits and creation of jobs.

8. Ms Trini LEUNG of Green Lamma raised objection against the proposal to build a new power generating facility and an incinerator at Lamma Island. She said that as a concerned resident of Lamma Island, her objection was based on the following considerations -

  1. Lamma Island was one of the few remaining green belt found in Hong Kong. Its unspoiled scenery had been a great attraction for tourists and locals alike and should therefore be conserved as far as possible. The proposed developments would have an adverse environmental impact on the area;

  2. From a planning point of view, Lamma Island should remain as a low density development area. The proposed extension of the power plant would affect the tranquillity of Yung Shu Wan where most of the Lamma residents resided. The proposed incinerator would also give rise to pollution problems in the area;

  3. Residents of Lamma Island had not been properly consulted on the proposed development. A more transparent planning process was needed to keep residents in the picture.

9. Ms Betty HO of Conservancy Association (CA) said that CA believed that there had not been sufficient grounds for the Government to grant approval for the Hong Kong Electric Co. Ltd. (HEC) to build a new power generating facility at Lamma Island. She said that the Secretary for Economic Services had failed to make public the revised forecast of power demand to justify the need for the new power generating facility. With the economic downturn, the power demand in both Hong Kong and the Mainland had been decreasing. CA called for the integration of Hong Kong and Guangdong power systems through cross supply and system planning. In this way, Hong Kong might take advantage of the current excess capacity in Guangdong, make full use of the cheaper and more environmentally friendly hydropower from Guangxi and Guizhou, and select sites for new capacities from a wider range of potential locations in both Guangdong and Hong Kong. If this wider perspective was adopted, CA called into question the need for building a new power generating facility at Lamma Island.

10. Ms HO further said that with the excess capacity in the electricity generating system of China Light and Power Company (CLP), there were grounds for deferring HEC's proposal of constructing a new power generating facility if interconnection proved viable. In the longer term, Hong Kong should adopt an open, competitive and environmentally friendly power supply system. Ms HO also doubted the impartiality of the consultants appointed to study HEC's generation development proposal and proposed Financial Plan for 1998-2003 because of their links with HEC.

Meeting with the Administration
(LC Paper No CB(1) 355/98-99(03))

11. In response to Mr LEE Wing-tat's enquiries about the planning standard for new power generating facilities and the reserve capacity of utility companies, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services (PAS/ES) explained that the reserve margin forecast by HEC in 2003 would be 20.6%. The reserve margin varied from year to year.

12. Mr LEE Wing-tat sought further clarification on the adoption of a reserve margin of 30% in the interim review of the scheme of control agreements but not the international standard of 25% as mentioned in FOE's submission. PAS/ES said that a reserve capacity of 30% was the product of negotiations with CLP and HEC during the interim review. The Administration considered such a reserve capacity reasonable for Hong Kong. He further clarified that a reserve capacity of 25% was not an international standard, as reserve margins differed from country to country.

13. Mr LI Wah-ming was concerned about the responsibility for financing interconnectors should these be built. PAS/ES replied that the Consultancy Study of Interconnection and Competition in the Electricity Supply Sector (the Study) commissioned by the Government would look into the long term prospect of interconnection and competition in Hong Kong and could lead in time to some fundamental changes. Upon finalization of the Study, public views would be invited on the consultants' report. The Administration would issue a policy statement in 1999. PAS/ES agreed to provide members with the terms of reference of the Study.

(Post-meeting note: a study brief on the Study on Interconnection and Competition in the Electricity Supply Sector in Hong Kong was provided by the Administration and circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(1)770/98-99)

14. In response to the Chairman's enquiries on the existing capacity of the three cables making up the existing interconnection and the number of additional cables to be built to obviate the need for building a new power generating facility at Lamma Island, the General Manager/Development and Planning, HEC advised that the three cables each had a capacity of 240 MVA, totalling 720 MVA. The capacity of the existing Lamma Power Station was 3305 megawatts.

15. Mr Eric WALKER pointed out that the existing interconnector which had 720 MVA should be able to transfer power between CLP and HEC. This interconnector had been paid for by the consumers. He said that at the Economic Services Panel meeting on 17 February 1997, CLP confirmed that power sales from CLP's Black Point Unit to HEC were feasible without requiring an additional cable to be laid across the harbour. However, utilities companies had not taken into account the use of the interconnector in calculating the need for new power plants. In other words, the utilities used the interconnector to reduce the day-to-day operating costs but disregarded it when the need for reserve capacity was assessed.

16. In response, PAS/ES said that whereas CLP considered that the existing interconnector could be used for power transfer, this matter had also been examined by HEC and the Economic Services Bureau's (ESB) consultants. The Administration's conclusion was that the existing interconnector did not have sufficient capacity to allow extended power transfer. An additional interconnector would be needed to achieve power transfer from CLP if the reliability of power supply from HEC was not to be compromised.

17. Noting that a previous study had said that a new interconnector would cost $468 million, Mr LEE Wing-tat enquired how this compared with the cost of building a new power generating facility in terms of value-for-money. PAS/ES explained that the feasibility of power transfer and the cost of building an additional interconnector were examined in the context of trying to find a solution to address CLP's excess capacity problem up to the year 2005. It was concluded that transfer of power was not the most cost-effective option and that the best way was to defer CLP's Black Point units 7 and 8, which had been done subsequently. PAS/ES added that the said arrangement should not be confused with the present Study on interconnection and competition which aimed at working out the feasibility and potential benefits to consumers in a much longer term and a wider context.

18. Addressing members' concern about the adverse impact of the proposed power station extension on the environment, the Acting Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (Environmental Assessment) (ADEP) (Atg) explained that HEC had conducted the first stage of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study as an integral of the Site Search Study. The findings identified an extension to Lamma Power Station as the most environmentally preferred option and indicated that environmental impact could be mitigated through the introduction of stringent pollution control measures. Apart from coal, natural gas had been identified as a possible fuel for power generation. The findings of the study had been submitted to the Advisory Council on the Environment for consideration. HEC's consultants were now conducting the EIA study on the proposed extension to Lamma Power Station. This study had to be done in accordance with the statutory requirement under the EIA Ordinance. The findings of the study, which was expected to be completed by the end of November 1998, would be submitted to Environmental Protection Department (EPD) for consideration and made available for public inspection and comment for one month.

19. Ms Trini LEUNG of Green Lamma expressed concern about a possible conflict of interest since HEC engaged its own consultants to conduct the EIA study. She called on EPD to play a monitoring role to ensure the conduct of the EIA study in an impartial manner and enquired about the possibility of employing independent consultants to carry out the EIA study.

20. In response, ADEP (Atg) assured members that there was a high degree of transparency in the conduct of EIA studies. Under the EIA Ordinance, each EIA study would be examined by an inter-departmental environmental control group. The findings of the study would be submitted to the Advisory Council on the Environment which comprised representatives from different walks of life including green groups. In addition, there would be a statutory consultation process before approval was given for the project to proceed. In the Administration's view, there should not be any conflict of interest if the EIA study was done by a project proponent.

21. In response to members, the Administration agreed to provide a written response to the submissions made by representatives from the Powerful Coalition.Admin.

22. Since the Economic Services Panel had scheduled to discuss the subject of power supply and demand at its meeting on 10 November 1998, the Chairman suggested that representatives of the green groups be invited to attend the meeting to express views.

(Post-meeting note: The Chairman's suggestion was relayed to the Clerk to the Economic Services Panel for follow up.)

VI Waste Reduction Framework Plan
(LC Paper No. CB(1)430/98-99(04))

23. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Acting Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) (DS/PEL) (Atg) highlighted the important features of the Waste Reduction Framework Plan (WRFP). He said that the WRFP was formulated pursuant to public consultation on the draft Waste Reduction Plan which was published in May 1997. The WRFP set out the broad policy framework for waste reduction in the next ten years and provided guidance to both the Administration and the community on the way forward. A Resource Recovery Unit was established within the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and was preparing a resource document which would provide details on the essential programmes and updated information on their costs and benefits. The resource document would be made available to interested sectors of the community in a few weeks. DS/PEL(Atg) stressed that if the current practice of waste production continued, another 860 hectares of landfill sites on top of the existing landfill might be needed from 2016 to 2045. Given the land constraints in Hong Kong, it would be extremely difficult to identify new landfill sites. The target of the WRFP was to divert 58% of the municipal solid waste generated away from landfills by 2007 through re-use, recycling and incineration. This would extend the life of existing landfills from 2015 to 2019.

Imposition of waste disposal fees

24. Members were concerned about the recent press report on the Administration's intention to levy waste disposal fees and the effects of such fees on members of the public in particular in the present economic climate. Noting that taxation and fiscal measures were mentioned in the WRFP as possible means to encourage waste reduction, members sought the Administration's clarification on any plan to introduce domestic waste disposal charges. Mr CHAN Wing-chan pointed out that given the difficulties in accurately assessing the quantity of waste produced by individual households, the administrative costs for operating a waste disposal charging system would be high. He doubted the effectiveness of such a system in reducing waste. Miss CHOY So-yuk said that the Administration had to take into account the problem of illegal dumping in determining whether waste disposal charges should be imposed.

25. In response, DS/PEL (Atg) said that the Administration had been using different means to implement environmental policies, including education, publicity, and the adoption of the "polluter pays" and "user pays" principles. As a start, the 10-year plan of the WRFP would focus on education, publicity and raising public awareness on waste reduction and recycling. Although charging for waste disposal would not stop the community from producing waste, fiscal incentives could work to encourage the public to produce less waste. DS/PEL (Atg) clarified that as indicated by the Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands at the launching of the WRFP on 5 November 1998, the Administration did not have any concrete plans to introduce disposal charges for domestic waste at the moment.

26. Despite the Administration's assurance that no concrete plans were in hand to introduce waste disposal charges at the moment, some members remained concerned about the possibility of imposing such charges in the near future or in the long run. DS/PEL (Atg) said in response that since discussions were underway on the proposed establishment of a new bureau to take on the responsibilities from the Municipal Councils in dealing with waste, there would be no possibility of household charges being introduced before the year 2000. The WRFP had set out the medium and long plans in implementing the waste reduction strategies in a more responsive and efficient manner. The Administration was looking at ways of optimizing the use of market forces, improving efficiency of collecting waste, reducing the costs involved, utilizing private sector initiatives which meant privatisation, contracting-out and corporatization. These measures would be implemented in a step-wise manner. The Administration would focus on education and publicity for the time being in order to solicit public participation in waste reduction. Charging would be one of the issues to be considered by the Administration but it would not be of a top priority. DS/PEL (Atg) added that waste management was not cost-free. The costs would ultimately be borne by the community. The question was how these costs would be met. As of now, a decision on the charging of household waste had not been made.

Scope of the WRFP

27. On members' comment that the Administration lacked a comprehensive and integrated policy to manage waste, DS/PEL (Atg) responded that a broad approach had been taken to encourage different sectors of the community to reduce waste. The WRFP set out the role to be played by the public and private sectors in waste reduction. The business and industrial community would be mobilised to take positive action in this respect. In addition, the WRFP also attempted to identify business and employment opportunities in waste recycling.

Waste reduction

28. As regards the basis in arriving at the reduction targets for municipal solid wastes, DS/PEL (Atg) said that there was no scientific basis for determining the target rate of waste reduction as this would vary from community to community. AD/EPD informed that when the Waste Disposal Plan was drawn up in 1989, a person generated 0.86 kg of waste on an average per day. In 1997, the rate increased to 1.04 kg. The amount of waste generated was related to the wealth of the community. In Hong Kong, around 30% of the municipal waste was recovered for recycling in 1998 while the remaining 70% was disposed of at landfills. By building on existing practices, the Administration aimed to further reduce the projected level of municipal solid waste requiring disposal by 40% in 2007 by incineration and waste avoidance programme. These altogether would make up a 58% reduction on the total amount of municipal solid waste requiring disposal by 2007. Although the reduction targets in Table 2.1 of the WRFP were not worked out on a scientific basis, these were compiled by making reference to the effectiveness of waste reduction measures in other countries. In response to members, the Administration agreed to provide information on the basis for deriving the waste reduction targets and the ways to achieve them.

Waste recovery and recycling

29. On the basis in working out the potential targets for recovery of different kinds of waste as shown in Table 3.1 of the WRFP, DS/PEL (Atg) explained that the target amounts were provided by the consultants some years ago and might not be updated. Nevertheless, they were useful indicators on the potential for recovery. A comprehensive study was being conducted on recovery and recycling of municipal solid waste. Regarding the recovery of plastic from the domestic sector, DS/PEL (Atg) said that the Administration would like to improve recycling of plastics as much as possible. Incineration would be one of the ways to reduce plastics albeit it was not the best method. EPD was examining the proposals for requiring plastic manufacturers to label plastics to facilitate recycling. The Assistant Director of Environmental Protection Department (AD/EPD) added that Column Four of Table 3.1 indicated the technically recyclable amounts, not the target amounts for recovery.

30. Mrs Miriam LAU pointed out the importance of increasing recovery rate of recyclable materials, in particular plastics, compostables and paper as this would significantly reduce the amount of waste disposed of at landfills. She stressed the need for the introduction of financial incentives to encourage waste recycling. Her view was shared by other members who concurred that some form of subsidies might be necessary to assist the recycling trade. DS/PEL (Atg) said that it was not the Administration's policy to subsidise any particular trade. Market forces should determine which kind of waste materials was most economically viable for recycling. Waste which had a high economic value would have a high recovery rate. AD/EPD added that the recovery rate of waste paperboard was higher than that of waste paper because the former was sold at a good price. The Administration was looking at ways to promote the recycling of waste materials. As a form of assistance, the Administration leased short term tenancy sites to waste recycling industries. Efforts had also been made to lower the operating cost of the industry by introducing measures to facilitate the recovery of waste materials. For example, the two Municipal Councils had been asked to provide free delivery of waste paper collected from the school waste paper collection campaign to waste paper recycling factories. Meanwhile, some public housing estates had segregatedly collected waste paper, plastics and aluminium cans to facilitate recovery.

Disposal of construction and demolition(C & D) waste

31. On the disposal of C & D waste, DS/PEL (Atg) said that the community had to face with difficult choices. The best way to deal with the problem was to reduce its amount. However, this was extremely difficult given the continued redevelopment of aged buildings. Consideration was given to extending the life of buildings in the longer term. As most C & D waste was inert material suitable for land reclamation, they should be diverted from landfills. Presently, C & D waste was used for reclamation and land formation, as well as rehabilitation of old quarry areas. The Administration would continue to provide conveniently located barging points to facilitate disposal of C & D waste. There would be sufficient reclamation or site formation projects to accommodate public fills in the next 10 years. Thereafter, disposal of C & D material would become increasingly difficult.

Incineration of waste

32. Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai was concerned about the depletion of landfills and the limits to which waste could be reduced through recovery and recycling. He called for the early introduction of high technology waste-to-energy incineration which could effectively reduce the volumn of waste.

33. DS/PEL (Atg) said in response that the Administration was appreciative of members' support for waste-to-energy incineration. The Administration would be relying on bulk waste reduction principally through incineration. A consultancy study on incineration was underway and a report would be released in a few months' time. There were initial indications that waste-to-energy incineration was viable in Hong Kong. However, it was envisaged that there would be difficulties in finding suitable sites to house incineration facilities. The consultants had looked at four localities, i.e. one in Lamma Island, one in Tseung Kwan O and two in Tuen Mun. DS/PEL (Atg) added that the principal objective of incineration programmes was to reduce waste, not to generate electricity.

34. Dr LEONG Che-hung remarked that incineration of all forms of waste had all along been supported by Members of the Legislative Council, but the Government had been procrastinating the issue.

35. The Chairman reminded members that the Panel would continue discussion on the WRFP at the scheduled special meeting on 12 November 1998. Members agreed to focus discussion on recycling of waste.

(Post-meeting note: On the instruction of the Chairman, the special meeting was postponed to 8 December 1998 and representatives of the waste recycling industries would be invited to attend.)

VI Any other business

36. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 12:45 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
19 January 1999