Jayalalithaa urges PM to intercede with environment ministry
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa Friday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to direct the Ministry of Environment and Forests to issue the environmental clearance for the increased capacity of the North Chennai Thermal Power Project Stage-II, set to be commissioned December 2012.
In a letter to Singh, the text of which was released to the media here, Jayalalithaa, stressing upon the 4,000 MW shortfall in the state's power demand, said: "I request you to kindly intervene in the matter and direct the Ministry of Environment and Forests to issue the Environmental Clearance for the enhanced capacity immediately, without insisting on a fresh application, so that the project could be commissioned, thereby helping to contain the severe power deficit faced by my State."
Stressing that the two 600 MW thermal power units at an estimated outlay of Rs.5,813 crore are expected to be synchronized with the grid in December 2012 and February 2013, Jayalalithaa said the Environment Ministry, after delaying the clearance for six years, has advised the state to ask Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Ltd (TANGEDCO) to apply afresh for environmental clearance, under the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006.
She said the inordinate delay in issuing the environmental clearance has resulted in the cancellation of the Letter of Assurance given by Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited for supply of coal for the above project on Sep 28, 2012.
Originally the environmental clearance was obtained by Videocon Power Ltd for setting up two units of 525 MW. The clearance was valid till May 10, 2006.
"However, due to various circumstances, the project could not be developed by M/s. Videocon Power Limited. The Government of Tamil Nadu decided to take up this project under the State Sector through the erstwhile Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) presently known as Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) within the validity period," Jayalalithaa said.
On Oct 9, 2006, the Environment Ministry conveyed its decision to transfer the environmental clearance issued to Videocon Power to TNEB, she said.
Meantime TNEB also decided to increase the proposed two units capacity to 600 MW each from 525 MW based on the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Power.
"The Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests also recommended the proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the meeting held on 3.5.2011 for issue of Environmental Clearance for the enhanced capacity," Jayalalithaa said.
Interestingly the union environment and forests secretary Nov 16, 2012 in a letter to Tamil Nadu chief secretary asked TANGEDCO to apply afresh for environmental clearance for the 1,200 MW project on the grounds that the clearance given to Videocon Power cannot be extended beyond 10 years under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006.
"He has further informed that the transfer of Environmental Clearance can be considered only when there is a written no objection certificate (NOC) by the transferor and for the same validity period. He has also added that in this case there is no valid Environmental Clearance which could be considered for transfer," Jayalalithaa said.
She said the original environmental clearance to Videocon Power was under the EIA Notification 1994 and the construction work was commenced within the validity period.
The said regulation does not stipulate any NOC from the transferor (Videocon Power) and as the centre has already transferred the environmental clearance in Oct 2006 itself, the issue of NOC does not arise, Jayalalithaa said.
Earlier in the day, Jayalalithaa at a wedding function, accused the central government of taking a negative approach towards Tamil Nadu's demands.
Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan is from Tamil Nadu. Many parts of the state go without power for around 15 hours a day.