The government relaxes the rules for thermal power plants, allows coal to be sourced and moved without new approvals
The Union Ministry of the Environment has relaxed the rules for the coal mining sector and thermal power plants, allowing thermal power plants to change their source of coal regardless of its ash content or mode of transport from the source. .
This means that the coal will be allowed to be transported in trucks covered with tarpaulins, even if the source of the raw material is at a great distance.
The change was made in an office memo issued by the ministry on November 11 and comes after lawsuits from thermal power plants, which said the limitations were causing delays in sourcing coal from new domestic sources.
“All thermal power plants that have environmental authorization can change the source of coal (from imported to national, national to national and national to imported) including lignite through electronic auctions, short-term linkage, long-term linkage, other options of linkage of the coal ministry or any organization recognized for assigning coal links without seeking the amendment in the environmental authorization … ”, states the order, revised by HT.
Environmental activists, however, said the move could lead to increased pollution because it will not monitor how changing the carbon source would affect the environment.
According to the 2006 environmental impact assessment notification, any change in the coal supply required the thermal power plants to seek an amendment to the environmental authorization (CE) granted to them. This would mean that the expert evaluation committee of the Ministry of the Environment would re-evaluate the project based on the new source. This was to ensure that the transportation and use of coal were monitored to ensure that emissions were low. Each CE usually stipulates the mode of transport, which was rail / conveyor belt.
The new rules state that no amendment will be required in the CE granted to the plant, even if the coal source changes and, consequently, its distance from the thermal power plant. Details on the location of the coal source; quantity; quality that includes (ash, sulfur, moisture content and calorific value); distance and mode of transport, you just have to inform the ministry of environment and your regional office.
With regard to transportation, the bureau’s memorandum advises thermal power plants that, to the extent possible, transportation should be by rail or conveyor belt or other environment-friendly modes. But road transport of coal in tarpaulin trucks will be allowed, until rail or conveyor infrastructure is available. There is no deadline on when this infra will be ready.
“The CE is awarded based on a specific source of coal and the distance from the mine. Any change in the source required an amendment to EC as conditions for the change in assessment. Now we have eliminated the need for that amendment, “said a senior official from the Environment Ministry.
“We had asked the ministry a couple of times about the need to simplify these rules. This is for a simple reason. The mines keep changing. Every time there is a change in the location of the mine, there is an unnecessary delay in modifying the CE, ”said Ashok Khurana, director general of the Association of Power Producers.
Experts have warned that this could lead to air pollution, damage to roads in many areas where coal will be transported, and undermines the environmental assessment process for thermal power plants.
“The flexibility to change the source of coal or the indefinite use of trucking, even when installing mandatory rail lines or conveyor belts, can be seen as part of the set of exemptions and incentives that are given to mining projects. In fact, the ministry has replaced the rule of law with the flexibility of the law that only accommodates the requirements of coal power and mining projects, ”said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at the Center for Policy Research. “This unfettered approach has serious implications for the places and people where these decisions will be put into practice. Coal transportation will take place on public roads or village roads, neither of which was in the original plans, ”he said.
“The ash content requirements for the coal supply were watered down earlier. Therefore, we are not attentive to the quality of the coal. If the coal is dirty and the emission control equipment is not installed according to the regulations, the emissions will be high, ”said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of the Center for Science and Environment.