The Centre has decided that companies which got the 214 cancelled coal blocks in the recently concluded auctions will not have to take fresh environment clearance, thereby paving the way for quicker extraction of the mineral.
The environment ministry has brought a major change in rules without seeking comments from public saying it was not needed in “public interest” to transfer environment clearance to new coal block allottees without any additional conditions as desired by the coal ministry.
The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 had prohibited transfer of environment clearance on the ground that the project proponent, which conducts the EIA studies, was responsible for meeting the conditions stipulated while giving green approval to the project.
During appraisal, the project proponent is required to make commitments which are mentioned in the final order, thereby making transfer of environmental clearance non-negotiable.
Using its powers under the Environment Protection Act, the ministry has amended the rule saying the environment clearance granted to coal blocks whose allotment has been cancelled in any “legal proceedings or by the government” may be transferred to the new allottee.
The transfer will be automatic as the new allottees will not have to take “no objection” either from the holder of the environment clearance or from any regulatory authority. “...no reference shall be made to the Expert Appraisal Committee or the State Level Expert Appraisal Committee concerned,” the notification issued last week said.
The beneficiary of the rule change would be companies which got 214 coal blocks that were cancelled by the Supreme Court in September 2014. The validity of the environment clearance for mining projects is up to 30 years and these coal blocks were granted green approval after 1991.