The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and state environment impact assessment authorities to “not grant any new environment clearances” to new thermal power plants until they comply with the standards set by the ministry.
The MoEF had on December 7, 2015 issued a notification revising the standards for coal-based thermal power plants across the country that aimed to reduce emissions such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and regulate the amount of water consumption. These power plants were given a December 2017 deadline to set up appropriate mechanism and technologies to cut emissions.
A bench headed by acting Chairperson Justice U D Salvi noted: “That new power plants are not allowed to come up without conforming with standards set out in the notification, for it will not only add to the problem of the ministry, but also mess up entire environmental scenario.”
During the hearing, the lawyer appearing for the ministry told the bench that a plea seeking extension of time for implementing the MoEF’s notification was pending before the Supreme Court.
Justice Salvi’s bench said that even though there are certain problems for existing plants to implement the standards set in the notification, “it is the obligation of the state machinery to find a way forward” and “come out with definite plans for achieving goals stipulated under the notification.”
The tribunal was hearing a plea by petitioner Sunil Dahiya seeking a direction to the environment ministry and the state environmental impact assessment authorities to ensure that all new approvals comply with the standards in the notification. The petitioner had said that according to the notification, coal thermal power plants installed after January 1 this year should adhere to stricter air pollution norms.