Reaffirming that the Vishakhapatnam Unit of LG Polymers operated without clearances even as the case was lobbed around by the Centre and the state authorities, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) the SEIAA of Andhra Pradesh was yet to transfer the company’s proposal to it despite it being required to do so.
“The unit falls under the EIA (environmental impact assessment) Notification, 2006. It falls under category A projects and the company has applied under ‘violation category’ for EC in 2018 to the SEIAA (State Environment Impact Assessment Authority). The MoEF&CC is yet to receive the transfer proposal from SEIAA,” the MoEF&CC said in its reply affidavit to the NGT.
In a separate Right to Information reply obtained on May 14, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had said it was unaware of whether the environmental clearance would be granted by the state or the Centre. “Environmental clearance (EC) is not dealt by CPCB. However, depending of category with threshold limit of industry it is either dealt by EAC by MoEF&CC or SEAC,” the pollution control body had said.
Category A projects such as the Vishakhapatnam unit of LG Polymers require ECs from the MoEF&CC for any work that they seek to undertake at their plant sites. In 2017, the MoEF&CC had, via a notification, given industries lacking ECs a special amnesty scheme to get the requisite permissions under the ‘project violations’ category.
In 2018, the Vishakhapatnam unit of LG Polymers applied for EC from the Andhra Pradesh SEIAA under the ‘project violation’ category. The state authorities, however, are not empowered to grant said clearances to LG Polymers, and had to therefore transfer the proposal to the MoEF&CC. That proposal has not been received till date, the central ministry said.
As reported earlier by The Indian Express, the Vishakhapatnam unit had in 2019, while applying to get EC from SEIAA, accepted that it did not have a clearance for its petrochemical plant for a substantial period of its operations between 1997 and 2019.
The Vishakhapatnam unit — from where a gas leak killed 12 people and injured several others — still does not have a valid EC. After the incident on May 7, the company had on May 11 said that the unit would be kept shut until the necessary approvals were obtained, and that there would be no production from there either. The company,however, has not filed its response in the NGT till date.
In its 2019 affidavit, the company had admitted that as of May 10, 2019, the unit did not have a “valid environmental clearance substantiating the produced quantity, issued by the competent authority for continuing operations”.
LG Polymers also acknowledged that it had expanded the production at the plant “beyond the limit of environmental clearance or changed the product mix without obtaining prior environmental clearance as mandated under the EIA notification, 2006”. The company had then also undertaken that it would not “repeat any such violation in future”.
Meanwhile, the NGT, in its latest order on Wednesday, said LG Polymers company must assume “clear and absolute liability” for the loss of “life, public health and the environment by its hazardous activities in violation of law”.