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Government eases green norms for new coal blocks

Government eases green norms for new coal blocks

In a move to fast-track production from the allocated coal mines, the environment ministry has allowed the transfer of environment clearances granted to previous allottees to new owners without any fresh approval.

Photo: Reuters Photo: Reuters

In an attempt to fast-track production from the recently allocated coal mines, the environment ministry has allowed the transfer of environment clearances granted to previous allottees to new owners without any fresh approval.

According to the earlier norms, the environment clearance (EC) for any project was allowed to transfer to another applicant with a written 'no objection' by the transferor to and by the regulatory authority concerned.

Now, the ministry has made amendments to the September 2006 EIA notification allowing transfer of EC to new coal block allottees without taking a 'no objection' from previous owners.

"Where an allocation of coal block is cancelled in any legal proceedings or by the government in accordance with law, the environment clearance granted in respect of such coal block may be transferred subject to the same validity period as was initially granted to any legal person to whom such block is subsequently allocated", said the gazette notification, dated March 23.

In such cases, the ministry said that there would be no requirement of obtaining a 'no objection' from either the holder of environment clearance or from the regulatory authority concerned. It also said that no reference shall be made to the Expert Appraisal Committee or the State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned.

The changes have been introduced as new coal block allottees feared that old allottees would create problems in transferring the environment clearance thus delaying the commencement of mining operations.

The Centre has recently auctioned 29 blocks in two phases to companies like Monnet, GMR Chhattisgarh, Hindalco, Reliance Cement among others raising about Rs 2 lakh crore. The bids for just 33 blocks in two phases have already surpassed the Rs 1.86 lakh crore loss estimated earlier by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India for allotment of mines without auction.

The revenue from the auction will go to the states in which the mines are located.

The states will receive Rs 466 crore as first tranche from the auction while the Centre will not keep any revenue from this up-front payment.

The auction follows the Supreme Court cancellation of 204 coal blocks last year.

After the two rounds of auctions, the government will commence the third round for 16 mines later this month.