NGT suspends clearance for Ennore power plant extension

Conditional work: Tangedco has been permitted to continue construction work on the extension project.  

The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has put in abeyance the Environment Clearance (EC) granted to the 660 MW Ennore Thermal Power Station expansion project for a period of six months, and has directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) to conduct a public hearing for the project.

The bench, however, said there was no necessity to set aside the EC as void abinitio on the grounds that the public hearing had not been conducted, while also allowing the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (Tangedco) to proceed with the construction activity. The bench said the Tangedco should not commence operations without completion of the process of incorporating additional conditions, if any, made by the MoEF.

The NGT directed the Ministry to conduct the public hearing within a period of two months, and after getting the public opinion on the project, direct the Tandegco to conduct further studies, if required. Following this, an additional Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report needs to be submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the MoEF. After getting its views and recommendations, the Ministry has been directed to pass appropriate orders required on ‘Precautionary Principle’, the bench said.

While the applicant sought cancellation of the EC, the bench held that though the appraisal of the project without a public hearing was vitiated, it did not warrant the entire process to be declared illegal and that it was “only a curable irregularity and not an incurable illegality making the entire process vitiated.”

The bench noted that the validity of the EC for the project had expired in 2019 and Tangedco had sought an extension for a further period of four years, which was rejected as per the amended EIA notification, and the project proponent was asked to apply for an EC de novo for the project, which was done by Tangedco.

The appraisal committee also made it clear that the project cannot proceed without a public hearing and a Cumulative Impact Assessment needed to be carried out.

The bench, noting the submission of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board that no objection was received from the public, said the statement filed by the Tangedco showed that they had uploaded the EIA report on their website, but it was not uploaded on the website of the TNPCB.

“So, there is no possibility for the public to know about the contents of the EIA report to raise their objection before the authorities, and there was no possibility for the appraisal committee to get the views of the public on this aspect,” the bench said.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 8:16:03 AM |

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