A green panel under the union environment ministry has recommended action against Bhubaneshwar Power Pvt Ltd (BPPL) for violating environment clearance (EC) norms with regard to transportation of coal by road, as per an official document.
The panel has said that BPPL must immediately stop road transport of coal from Talcher (97km) to its thermal power plant in Cuttack district, Odisha and only do it from the Raja Athagarh rail siding, as has been temporarily permitted till December 2018.
Consequently, the panel has also deferred its decision on the company’s proposal seeking extension of temporary permission for road transportation
“The ministry (of environment) may take a separate call to initiate action against the project proponent (BPPL) on the violation of environment clearance conditions that has already occurred,” according to the the minutes of meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).
The EAC found that the company was sourcing 90 per cent of its coal requirement through spot e-auction. Further, this e-auction coal was being transported by road from Talcher itself (97 km) even without any permission.
The reasons cited by the company for transporting coal by road from Talcher were not adequate and the “EC conditions were being violated for at least the past year,” it said.
Further, the panel found that there was no traffic impact assessment conducted for the route which the company sought for extension of temporary permission for transportation of coal by road. The company has also not provided the concrete timeline to complete the construction of rail route including the coal yard.
The company has further mentioned that even though rail route is complete, transportation of coal by roads will continue as coal will also be purchased through e-auction, which will be allowed only if coal is transported through roads. The EAC said that this logic was “untenable”.
In this backdrop, the panel has also recommended the union environment ministry to inform the Odisha State Pollution Control Board to initiate action against the company regarding violation of the consent to operate the plant.
That apart, the EAC said that e-auctioning of coal was allowed to the company by state-run Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) without obtaining permission of e-auction based coal-supply from the Centre.
In this regard, the union environment ministry may seek clarification from MCL regarding how e-auctioning to the company was allowed, it added.
The EAC also suggested that the ministry should discuss with Coal India Ltd and the Railway Ministry regarding the policy of not making rakes available for transport of coal supplied through e-auctions, and may take a suitable decision to make rail transport possible in the interest of reducing the environmental pollution burden.
The BPPL’s 135 MW captive thermal power plant in Cuttack district was commissioned in 2016. Its annual coal requirement is 1 million tonnes.