She asks PM to direct MoEF to issue environment clearance

Faced with the prospect of a huge delay in commissioning the North Chennai Thermal Power Project Stage II, with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) asking the State Government to apply afresh for environmental clearance, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Friday sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention to resolve the matter.

At the height of a severe power deficit and with the 2x600 MW NCTP–Stage II waiting to be synchronised in the next three months and becoming fully operational by April-May 2013, Ms. Jayalalithaa stated in a letter to Dr. Singh that the MoEF Secretary had written to the Chief Secretary on November 16 directing the State to seek fresh environmental clearance under the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006.

The project was originally proposed by M/s. Videocon Power Limited, which had obtained EC for the 2x525 MW with validity up to May 10, 2006.

It could not develop the project and the erstwhile Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, now known as Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution and Corporation Limited (Tangedco), decided to take it up. On October 9, 2006, the MoEF conveyed its decision to transfer the EC. In the meanwhile the proposed capacity was enhanced to 2x600 MW, based on the Ministry of Power guidelines. The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the MoEF also recommended the proposal for EC on May 3, 2011 with enhanced capacity.

The EC granted to M/s. Videocon was based on the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 1994. Now, the MoEF Secretary had contended that it could not be extended beyond ten years and that transfer of EC could be considered only when there was a ‘no objection’ certificate by the transferor and for the same validity period.

According to the MoEF, there was no valid EC that could be considered for transfer in this case.

Bringing to the notice of the Prime Minister Clause 2 (iii) (c) of the EIA notification 1994, Ms. Jayalalithaa said that the clearance granted would be valid for five years for commencement of construction or operation of the project. Construction had to commence within the validity period and once work began, there was no question of further validity.

In this case, the MoEF had sent the Bangalore-based southern Regional Chief Conservator of Forests to verify the commencement of project activities.

Based on his report the EC was transferred to the TNEB on October 9, 2006, she noted.

On the issue of obtaining a no objection certificate from the transferor, there was no provision in the EIA Notification of 1994. Since, the MoEF had itself transferred the EC, there was no question of obtaining no objection certificate from the transferor now.

As such, applying the stipulations of the EIA Notification 2006 for the project cleared under the earlier notification in 1994 at a time when the project was ready for commissioning was not acceptable, Ms. Jayalalithaa said.

The inordinate delay and non-issuance of EC for the enhanced capacity by MoEF had resulted in the cancellation of the Letter of Assurance given by M/s. Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited for supply of coal for the project on September 28, 2012.

The Prime Minister should intervene and direct the MoEF to issue EC for enhanced capacity and not insist on a fresh application to help the State tide over the acute power shortage, Ms. Jayalalithaa said.