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Formosa expects faster ok for U.S. petrochemical plant under new EPA chief

By Faith Hung

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Formosa Petrochemical Corp. expects faster approval for a planned $9.4 billion petrochemical plant in the U.S. state of Louisiana under the administration of President Donald Trump, the company's chairman said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is likely to roll back some of its regulations after the appointment as head last month of Scott Pruitt, who sued the agency multiple times as Oklahoma state attorney general.

The company should benefit from less stringent environmental regulations under the Trump administration, Formosa Petrochemical Chairman Chen Bao-lang said. A subsidiary of Formosa's parent company admitted to massive pollution in Vietnam last year.

"We are more optimistic about the investment," Chen told Reuters in an interview in the group's headquarters in Taipei. "At least the obstacles will be fewer... We're aiming to get an air permit in August 2018."

Formosa Petrochemical is part of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group, which has production facilities across Taiwan, China, the United States and Vietnam.

Another Formosa subsidiary, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, paid $500 million in damages in Vietnam after it admitted last year that it polluted more than 200 km (125 miles) of coastline in April, killing more than 100 tonnes of fish and devastating the environment, jobs and economies of four provinces.

PRODUCTION TO START ONE YEAR EARLIER

The petrochemical plant will be located in Louisiana's St. James Parish. The group first submitted its application to the Louisiana state government in September 2015.

"Trump has said his priority is the U.S. economy first, and then environmental protection," said the chairman, who is also an executive member of the group's board. "So far everything is running smoothly."

Formosa is now hoping to start production in 2021, one year ahead of schedule, after getting the permit, he said.

Formosa Petrochemical is leading the project along with another member of the group, Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp..

The first phase of the project includes an ethane cracker with an annual capacity of 1.2 million metric tonnes and 600,000 metric tonnes of propylene. In the second phase, slated for construction by March 2025, it will build another ethylene plant with annual capacity of 1.2 million tonnes, Chen said.

The group is also expanding its U.S. production facilities in Texas with a $5 billion investment to increase its output of ethylene glycol, scheduled for completion in 2018.

(Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger)

 

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