Coal-based power producers have crossed yet another hurdle as the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has accepted a long-pending demand for parallel processing of environment and forest clearances instead of sequential clearances. This would help power producers save time in getting these two clearances and thereby achieve time-bound project implementation. MoEF's office memorandum released on April 19 is expected to fast-track clearances to complete proposed capacity addition of 62,000 Mw of the total 75,000 Mw based on coal during 12th five year plan. MoEF's move also comes at a time when the Coal India has agreed to sign fuel supply agreement (FSA) with power producers. MoEF said, "As regards the issue relating to the status of environment clearance (EC)/forest clearance (FC) for the linked coal mine, it is clarified that the case for environment clearance of thermal power projects would be processed based on the status furnished by the proponent in line with the parallel processing being adopted for granting environment clearances of projects where forestry clearance is also required, having convergency at the last step. However, EC would be issued only after stage-I forestry clearance for linked mine." Ashok Khurana, director general Association of Power Producers (APP) welcomed the MoEF's guidelines saying that this was one of the major demands made by power producers on January 18 during their meeting with the Prime Minister. " We had made a strong argument in favour of parallel clearances instead of sequential clearances. This will certainly help reduce the time required for getting these clearances." Further, MoEF said it would be necessary that the project was referred back to it to revisit the EC granted earlier in the eventuality of change in coal parameters with rspect to the parameters based on which environment impact assessment (EIA) was prepared.
This would be essential to assess the adequacy of the conditions already stipulated and to incorporate any additional condition as may be necessary in the interest of environment protection including provision of Flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD) for control of Sulphur dioxide emissions. MoEF has asked power producers to provide firm coal linkage for consideration of proposals for EC of thermal power projects and other projects which were largely dependent on coal as a raw material. "It is clarified that the coal linkage could either be in the form of a linkage through a specific mine or a basket of mines or through dedicated coal block, in the form of linkage accorded by Standing Linkage Committee of the coal ministry or fuel supply agreement. The linkage/FSA must provide coal quality parameters of specific calorific value, suplhur content and ash content. It would be necessary to indicate the location of the mine as this would determine the necessity of using washed coal." Furthermore, in case of projects based on imported coal, it would be mandatory on the developer to submit a copy of the firm memorandum of understanding between him and the coal supplier. MoEF explained that this would be necessary to bring in greater clarity and to elaborate procedure for submission and processing of proposals for EC. However, R V Shahi, former power secretary said it was agreed that characteristics of coal was necessary for EC and developers should indicate the broad range. "The requirement that there should be a linkage accorded by Standing Linkage Committee of the coal ministry is an impractical condition because the committee does not provide such linkages so easily. In fact, the experience is that for months together the meeting of Standing Linkage Committee is not even convened. In such a situation, starting a project and getting financial closure will be impossible and therefore this condition needs to be revisited," he noted.