Drastically falling short of its targets in coal production time and again, state-run Coal India Limited (CIL) has petitioned the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to do away with the ‘public hearing’ and give speedy environmental clearance (EC) for 13 coal mines, which could help it ramp up production by almost 25 per cent in these coal projects.

It has also suggested to the PMO that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) could be asked to make necessary amendments in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006, to facilitate provisional permission for 25 per cent additional environmental clearance capacity, in anticipation of completion of due process, in the larger interest of the nation.

“There is scope to quickly increase production for some of the projects of CIL to the tune of 25 per cent, in addition to the existing environmental clearance (EC) capacities, if they are accorded clearance expeditiously, by doing away with the need for a fresh public hearing. The list of the 13 projects identified has already been sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Public hearing has already been conducted in respect of these projects earlier. The currently approved EC capacity of these projects is 114.60 mtpa, and they have applied for 125.14 mpta, against which the targeted production for 2012-13 is 123.60 MT. Further, if 25 per cent additional capacity is approved, these projects plan to produce 145.91 MT in 2016-17. This issue was considered by the Group of Ministers (GoM) at its meeting on September 20 last year, where the MoEF had agreed to consider such projects on a case-to-case and merit basis,” the note from the Coal Ministry and PMO states.

To buttress its argument, CIL stated that Section 7(ii) of the EIA notification 2006 provides for exemption of a public hearing for expansion projects after due diligence for projects, which have secured EC earlier. However, MoEF, vide their office memorandum June 3, 2009, and August 24, 2009, have conveyed that no exemption from public hearing shall be given in any such project, under the said provision.

However, CIL has pleaded that since the listed projects have already undergone public hearing at some point of time, and the proposed environment management plans have robust mitigation measures, MoEF may review their earlier stand, and relax the clause of public hearing for the project of public sector coal companies, in the larger interest of nation, for increasing coal production in the current energy crisis situation.

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