Ex - Gov. Ishihara Ok'd Low Tokyo Gas Soil Cleanup Bill For Toyosu Market Site: Staff

Ex-Gov. Ishihara OK'd low Tokyo Gas soil cleanup bill for Toyosu market site: staffFormer Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara gave permission for Tokyo Gas Co. to pay just around 8 billion yen of the estimated 58.6 billion yen cost for the cleanup of the relocation site for the Tsukiji wholesale market, multiple metro employees have said.

Ishihara was governor at the time the decision was made to move the market to the former Tokyo Gas plant site in Koto Ward's Toyosu area. He claimed in responses to questions from current Gov. Yuriko Koike in October last year that he had not been consulted on the divvying up of the cleanup costs.

In 2001, the metro government and Tokyo Gas Co. agreed to relocate Tsukiji to the Toyosu site, and by 2007 Tokyo Gas had spent around 10 billion yen on contaminated soil countermeasures. However, a metro Tokyo survey ending in May 2008 found benzene at 43,000 times the national safety limit as well as other contaminants. As such, the metro government began negotiations in 2009 to have Tokyo Gas pay for more cleanup measures.

According to sources including the metro employees, in February 2009 metro Tokyo contacted Tokyo Gas for part of the soil decontamination costs at the Toyosu site. In November that year, it handed Tokyo Gas a document asking the firm to foot 8.6 billion yen of the estimated 58.6 billion yen needed. Charging Tokyo Gas for around 15 percent of the total cost was based on a 2005 agreement that Tokyo Gas had only partial responsibility for dealing with contaminated soil down to a depth of 2 meters.

Ishihara is said to have been shown the document on the division of the cleanup costs for his approval by July that year. Sources including the employees said that a high-ranking official of the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, which manages Tsukiji market, showed the document to Ishihara and explained that the utility would be charged around 8 billion yen, and he gave his approval.

According to records kept by the metro government, negotiations with Tokyo Gas continued after the document was presented, with at least 14 meetings between November 2009 and March 2013. Tokyo Gas refused to accept the 8.6 billion yen charge, and the minutes of a February 2011 meeting read, "This situation is tough because the (money that Tokyo Gas says it is willing to pay) is less than the 8 billion yen that was shown to the governor." In the end Tokyo Gas agreed to pay 7.8 billion yen, while the total costs for dealing with the contaminated soil had ballooned to 85.8 billion yen.

In October last year, Ishihara responded in writing to questions sent by Gov. Koike, writing that, "Looking back on it now it was unfair, but I was not asked for my judgment, so I don't know anything about it."

Ishihara is planned to speak on the issue at a press conference on March 3. He is also slated to speak on March 20 as a witness at an investigative committee of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, which can impose punishments for giving false testimony.