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Hometown tax used to cover costs of anti-nuclear plant lawsuit

HAKODATE, Hokkaido -- The municipal government here has started using part of fiscal 2017 "hometown tax payments" to help cover the costs of a lawsuit opposing the construction of the Oma Nuclear Power Plant in nearby Aomori Prefecture, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

    Since initiating this plan on April 3, the Hakodate Municipal Government has managed to collect approximately 1.652 million yen, through 71 sources, through hometown tax payments. Tsuyoshi Imoto, who is in charge of disaster management in the city, is hopeful that the plan will generate attention: "It would be pleasing if people developed an interest in this appeal of 'stopping the construction of the Oma Nuclear Power Plant', through the hometown tax payment system, which is gaining people's attention."

    Until recently, the Hakodate Municipal Government collected money for the lawsuit through donations from across the entire country. It managed to gather approximately 56 million yen by the end of fiscal 2016, but the amount specifically for fiscal 2016 dropped to only about 900,000 yen.

    However, slightly later down the line, the municipal government provided donors with the option of being able to contribute toward the "freezing of the construction of the Oma Nuclear Power Plant" through hometown tax payments -- which has helped to cover legal costs.

    In April 2014, the Hakodate Municipal Government filed a lawsuit against the national government and J-POWER (Electric Power Development Co.) at the Tokyo District Court, in what was the first example of a local authority demanding a halt to the construction of a nuclear power plant.

    The planned nuclear power plant is located across the Tsugaru Straits on the opposite shore to Hakodate. The municipal government has emphasized that, "If there were a major accident at the plant, the services of local authorities would be significantly undermined, and probably wiped out altogether."

    The legal costs for this lawsuit reached approximately 21.8 million yen by the end of fiscal 2016, and there is still no conclusion in sight.

    Commenting on the use of hometown tax in this way, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has stated that, "Local authorities are free to use the hometown tax in ways they see fit, and we are not in a position to comment."

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