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MoEF nod for parallel processing of eco clearances

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The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests () has accepted coal-based power producers’ demand for a parallel processing of environment and forest clearances, instead of sequential clearances. This would help power producers secure these clearances early.

The MoEF’s decision, made last week, is expected to fast-track clearances to complete the proposed power capacity addition of 62,000 Mw of the total 75,000 Mw based on coal during the 12th five-year plan. The ministry’s April 19 office memorandum also comes at a time when Coal India has agreed to sign a fuel supply agreement with power producers.

As for the issue relating to the status of environment clearance (EC)/forest clearance for linked coal mines, MoEF clarified the case for EC of thermal power projects would be processed based on the status furnished by the proponent. This must be in line with the parallel processing being adopted for granting ECs of projects where forestry clearance is also required, having convergency at the last step. “However, EC would be issued only after stage-1 forestry clearance for linked mine,” it added.

The (APP) welcomed the MoEF guidelines. This was one of the major demands power producers made on January when they met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “We had made a strong argument in favour of parallel clearances instead of sequential clearances,” recalled APP director-general Ashok Khurana.

“This will certainly help reduce the time required for getting these clearances.”

The MoEF further 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 respect to the parameters based on which environment impact assessment 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 desulfurisation for control of sulphur-dioxide emissions.

The MoEF has asked power producers to provide firm coal linkage for the consideration of proposals for the EC of thermal power projects and other projects that 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,” according to the ministry. “The linkage/FSA must provide coal quality parameters specifically calorific value, sulphur content and ash content. It would be necessary to indicate the location of mine as this would determine the necessity of using beneficiated washed coal.”

Furthermore, in the 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. This, the MoEF said would be necessary to bring in greater clarity, and to elaborate procedure for submission and processing of proposals for the EC.

Former power secretary said it was agreed that revealing the characteristics of coal was necessary for the EC, and developers should indicate the broad range. “One requirement, though, is impractical: that there should be a linkage accorded by the coal ministry’s Standing Linkage Committee. For, that body does not provide such linkages so easily,” he added. “In fact, experience show that this committee does not convene a meeting for months together. That makes it impossible to start a project and getting financial closure. This condition needs to be revisited.”

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