Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jindal plans to rely only on domestic source for coal for Ratnagiti !

India's JSW Energy says Ratnagiri power plant expansion on hold | Agricultural Commodities | Reuters

MUMBAI, July 21 (Reuters) - JSW Energy has decided to put the expansion of its power project in Ratnagiri on hold due to costly imported coal, its chairman Sajjan Jindal told reporters on the sidelines of an annual shareholder meeting.

"In case of imported coal, there is a huge problem. Even if you own mines outside, this coal is to be sold at a benchmark price," he said.

The company plans to rely only on domestic source for coal, he added. (Reporting by Kaustubh Kulkarni)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Penalty for environmental offences to be raised

NAGPUR: The existing quantum of penalty prescribed under the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986 being too meagre and the process of imposing penalty so cumbersome, the quantum of penalty for non-compliance of the environment clearance (EC) conditions for projects is likely to be made sufficiently high and there may not be any ceiling on the quantum of penalty amount for serious offences.

A high-powered committee headed by J M Mauskar, additional secretary (impact assessment), of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), in its report submitted on January 11, has recommended that serious offences may be made cognizable by police and also non-bailable. The process of imposing penalty needs to be made swifter and prompt in terms of payment of penalty.

The panel was set up on December 14, 2009 to streamline monitoring and compliance of conditions for environmental safeguards and there by making it more comprehensive, effective and transparent.

"The government is expected to implement the recommendations in a year. To make EPA violations cognizable and non-bailable, amendment will have to be made in the EPA," Mauskar said. The state pollution control boards (SPCBs) have already adopted alternate mechanisms such as securing of bank guarantee for ensuring compliance of the commitments made by the companies. MoEF is analysing the issue.

The EPA of MoEF is an umbrella Act for protection and improvement of environment. Under the Act, the ministry has brought out several notifications prescribing rules, standards, identification of ecosensitive zones etc.

The MoEF is also proposing to constitute a National Environment Assessment and Monitoring Authority (NEAMA), an independent agency to undertake environmental appraisal of projects under EIA Notification, 2006, and also to undertake monitoring of the stipulated conditions for their effective implementation during the project cycle.

The committee's recommendations are based on basic principles that 'polluter pays' and 'prevention is better than cure' which puts the entire responsibility of operating a project in conformity with the best environmental practices and in compliance with the stipulated conditions.

Since Jairam Ramesh took over, the MoEF, as part of making the whole system of monitoring more transparent, has been asking the project proponents to put the monitoring reports on their website to make it available in the public domain.

"Yet, the existing system of environment monitoring suffers short comings due to procedural and administrative deficiencies, inadequate infrastructure and trained technical manpower and legislative deficiencies," the report said.

In Vidarbha itself, projects especially relating to power sector, highways, irrigation and construction sector have their impacts essentially during construction phase and hence would require rigorous monitoring of EC conditions.

Keeping in view the limitations of the existing system of monitoring and analysis of the EC conditions during different stages of the project, a new approach to monitoring of EC compliance has been envisaged.

The panel has recommended involvement of specialised agencies and institutions in monitoring EC compliance; transparent self-monitoring by project proponent and enabling community scrutiny and verification; enhancement of penalty; putting information in public domain on the website as also on display boards etc.

The report lists out Raigad and Ratnagiri in Western Maharashtra as areas where concentration of developmental activities is more and may prove detrimental to environment. "Such areas should be monitored regularly to assess the environmental matrices of the region in terms of the impact of these activities on air, water, flora and fauna and critical habitats," the report says. However, the committee has ignored Vidarbha, where 85 power projects are being proposed thereby threatening the ecology here.

The committee has also considered assessment of Raigad and Ratnagiri mentioning the areas rich biodiversity and alphanso mangoes. However, there is no mention of Vidarbha which is famous for its oranges.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

‘Cut and paste' EIA consultant banned


Priscilla Jebaraj

Five different mining projects in five different villages of Rajasthan all have one thing in common. According to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports that they individually submitted as part of their environment clearance application, each project is surrounded by exactly the same ambient air quality, with identical data for some stations.

They also share a common EIA consultant — R.K. Consultants, Jodhpur.

After the Environment Ministry's committee to appraise mining projects noted the same data appearing in all the reports, the consultant “clarified” that “it was a mistake which had crept in during preparation of report due to cut and paste.” The committee was not amused, and promptly rejected the clearance applications of all five projects, and banned the consultant from the EIA business for the next three years as well.

However, the “cut and paste” technique of the consultant underlines the growing farce of EIAs that are making a mockery of the country's environmental clearance system.

‘EIA key to clearance'

Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said that a small percentage of the most sensitive projects will soon be subject to EIAs by government-appointed panels. Currently, EIAs are commissioned by the project proponents themselves, using paid consultants.

“The EIA is central to the clearance process. But between the manipulated EIA report and the fixed public hearing, the environment clearance has become a fait accompli,” he admitted.

Massive flaws

With citizens and activists awaking to the massive flaws in the system, widespread protests against projects — including high profile cases such as Posco, Vedanta and Lavasa — then led to the Ministry to constitute its own panels to re-examine environmental impacts.

The Minister noted that some government institutions have also become “thoroughly subverted” by the EIA system. “To my horror, I found that the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education is preparing EIAs for private players. I have put a stop to that,” he said.

Ministry officials claim that another public body, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, is one of the “most notorious EIA consultants.” Some of its reports have been debunked by expert panels, with its evaluation of the Union Carbide gas leak site in Bhopal sparking outrage among residents and activists.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

JSW Energy's price hike plea rejected

But Mahavitaran rejected its petition, after which JSW Energy has moved the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Merc), seeking a review of the utility's decision.

JSW Energy Ltd has approached Maharashtra's power regulator for permission to increase power tariff after the state government's distribution utility Mahavitaran refused its request. Sajjan Jindal-controlled JSW Energy wanted to hike tariff after the supply of coal for its 1,200MW imported coalbased plant at Jaigad in Ratnagiri district ran into trouble. It approached Mahavitaran when Indonesia's supreme court cancelled the allocation of a mine to the company by the Indonesian government. But Mahavitaran rejected its petition, after which JSW Energy has moved the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Merc), seeking a review of the utility's decision.

JSW Energy signed an agreement with Merc in 2009 to supply power at '2.71 per unit. The petition filed with Mahavitaran did not say by how much the company wants to raise it now. Mahavitaran rejected JSW Energy's request, saying the company had quoted the agreed rate after taking all commercial risks into consideration. Mahavitaran's managing director Ajoy Mehta confirmed it has rejected JSW's request, but refused to comment further as the matter is pending before the regulator. An email sent to JSW Energy's spokesman on Tuesday remained unanswered. The company has an operational capacity of 1,730MW and projects worth 1,410MW are under construction.

Half the capacity of the 1,200MW Jaigad plant has already become operational. Imported coal-based projects face a wide range of risks, said Kameswara Rao, executive director of international auditing and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. "While the price risks are covered in pass-through provisions, there are diverse non-price risks which should be assessed by developers when they plan their sourcing strategy or acquire overseas mines," he said. In many cases, he added, developers are in a rush to acquire resources and so don't prepare their bids well.

Maharashtra to create fund for towns affected by power projects

In a bid to placate environmentalists and local residents at the sites of thermal power projects that will together produce nearly 20,000 megawatt (MW), Maharashtra is creating a special fund for infrastructure development in towns and villages where such plants are coming up.

The projects either are in the construction phase or are being planned in the state by both public sector as well as private utilities.

The fund will be created by levying a surcharge on value-added tax (VAT) on the sale of electricity collected from power producers and traders, and electricity duty that consumers pay.

State energy secretary Subrat Ratho said discussions are being held on the level of this surcharge and who should pay. “We expect to complete the discussion in two-three weeks,” he said.

State finance and energy minister Ajit Pawar had announced the creation of such a fund during his budget speech earlier this month, without elaborating.

“As the percentage of surcharge is not fixed yet, it’s difficult to make any guess on the amount that we will be able to collect for the development of project-affected localities,” Ratho said. He said this would be the first such fund by any Indian state.

The tariff will rise but not by a significant amount, he said.

The first such pilot project will be implemented in Chandrapur—a district town in eastern Vidarbha with a population of 350,000 and home to the state super thermal power station (STPS) that generates 2,340MW. It’s owned by state power utility Maharashtra State Power Generation Co. Ltd (Mahagenco), India’s second largest power producer after NTPC Ltd. The estimated cost of the pilot project is Rs.250 crore.

“During my recent visit to the STPS, many elected representatives from the area and members of civil society met me and complained that they are suffering from pollution for the sake of entire Maharashtra but they do not have access to basic amenities like good roads and health services,” Pawar said.

“I found their complaints are justified. So we decided to create a special fund to address the needs of the local population. This fund will not only be used for towns and villages where Mahagenco’s projects are located, but also for private power projects which are coming up in a big way in the state.”

Suresh Chopne, a lecturer at Chandrapur College and president of Green Planet Society, a non-profit organization, said pollution from the thermal power plant was an issue, but a greater menace was the traffic congestion and rising pollution due to movement of trucks that go in and out of STPS supplying coal to the plant or ferrying fly ash. “We need better and wider roads, flyovers in our town to ensure smooth movement of vehicles,” he said. He also demanded a super-speciality hospital to treat people suffering from pollution-related ailments.

According to Vivek Bhide, an activist from the Konkan region, where around 10,000MW of thermal power projects are coming up, said the water discharge from JSW Energy Ltd’s 1200MW project at Jaigad in Ratnagiri district contains sodium chloride and has contaminated the groundwater.

An email query sent to a JSW Energy spokesperson remained unanswered.

Shantanu Dixit of Pune-based think tank Prayas Energy Group that specializes in energy-related issues said the government move is welcome, but “we also need to see the impact on the cost of power for consumers”.

According to him, before sanctioning any thermal power projects, environmental-impact assessment should be carried out for the entire region where projects are coming up. Currently, individual projects are being assessed independently, he said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seismicity aspect of Jaitapur considered: Ramesh

Seismicity aspect of Jaitapur considered: Ramesh
PTI | 10:03 PM,Mar 16,2011

New Delhi, Mar 16 (PTI) Amid concerns over safety of Jaitapur nuclear plant, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today said seismicity aspects have been taken care of while giving clearance to it but he was not sure whether tsunami factor had been considered. He said the government was awaiting the results of technical review of atomic plants being carried out by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India before deciding on imposition of any new conditions on Jaitapur plant to be built with French collaboration. "As far as seismicity is concerned... ground level seismicity is concerned... I think, those factors are taken into account," Ramesh told reporters on the sidelines of a function here. Asked about tsunami aspect, he said he could not "recall" if tsunami was factored into the environment clearance process. "I don't think in Jaitapur, a tsunami probability has been taken into account," he added. He underlined that the Government would not deliberately put a power plant at the high seismic zone. He noted that the last tsunami hit the Arabian Sea cost in 1945. To a question, Ramesh said his Ministry's mandate was only look after the enviromental impact and the issue relating to the radio active waste management was the responsibility of the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) and Nuclear Energy Council. "The internal safety designs, the internal management of the nuclear islands is something that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board look after," the Minister said. Ramesh said post-Japan tsunami, if there needs to be a relook on some of the safety regions about nuclear power plants, it is the mandate of the AERB. "I am not the competent authority," the Minister said. On imposing additonal conditions in Jaitapur, he said the Government was waiting for the technical review being carried out by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited. "Based on the safety review, we will see there is need for additonal studies that need to be done," the Minister added.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NTPC’s coal-based project in MP turned down

The Hindu : News / National : NTPC’s coal-based project in MP turned down
PRESENT DANGER:File photograph of the ash slurry overflow from the NTPC's Simhadri plant in Devada village in Vishakhapatnam in June 2010. The MoEF panel has cited proximity to habitation to reject the NTPC's Madhya Pradesh project.
The Hindu PRESENT DANGER:File photograph of the ash slurry overflow from the NTPC's Simhadri plant in Devada village in Vishakhapatnam in June 2010. The MoEF panel has cited proximity to habitation to reject the NTPC's Madhya Pradesh project.

The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Environment Ministry noted that the identified land for the power plant seems to be prime agricultural land. "The site comprises a vast portion of double crop agricultural land which is unacceptable," the panel said.

Noting that a thermal power plant near human habitat and on agricultural land was not viable, a Central green panel has refused to give approval to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to set up a 1320 MW coal-based project in Madhya Pradesh.

The Public Sector Unit had proposed 2x660 MW coal based thermal power plant over 1000 acres of land in Jhikoli and Tumra villages in Narsinghpur district.

However, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Environment Ministry at a recent meeting, noted that the identified land for the power plant seems to be primarily prime agricultural land and the project proponent has failed to give more details on it. “The site comprises a vast portion of double crop agricultural land which is unacceptable,” noted the panel.

It also felt that locating a power plant near the main town of Gadarwara was not desirable. Moreover, drawing a huge amount of water (32 cusecs) from the Narmada river was not feasible given the fact that a large number of such power plants with water allocation by the state government from the river have already been submitted for consideration.

The NTPC has proposed land requirement of 1,000 acres, which comprises mainly non-irrigated land and irrigated land while coal requirement of 7.5 million tonnes per annum which was to be obtained from the North Karanpura coal blocks in the state.