Deadlines for coal-based power plants to meet new emission norms extended, environmentalists fume

NEW DELHI: The Centre has extended deadlines for coal-based power plants to adopt new emission standards by up to three years and even allowed the defaulters to continue their operations after paying penalty if they miss the new timelines.
Thermal power plants (TPPs) located in different regions will, however, have different deadlines with maximum three years being given to those in comparatively lesser polluting areas. New deadlines were issued by the the environment ministry on Wednesday.
As it will be the third deadline since notification of new emission norms for the coal-fired TPPs, the move drew criticism from environmentalists who said the extension will have grave repercussions for fight against air pollution.
Though TPPs located within 10 km radius of the national capital region (NCR) or the cities having more than one million population will have to adhere to the December 31, 2022 deadline, others including retiring units will have graded deadlines up to December 31, 2025.
The TPPs will have to install pollution control equipment such as flue gas desulphurization (FGD) units within the extended deadline to meet the new emission norms of sulphur dioxide.
“Given that this is the third deadline, the environment ministry needs to clarify what commitments they have received from power companies and ministry of power, which ensures the implementation at least this time around,” said Sunil Dahiya, analyst, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
According to the notification, a task force will be constituted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to categorize thermal power plants in three categories on the basis of their location to comply with the emission norms within the different time limit.
In case of non-compliance, the defaulter units will have to pay a penalty of up to 0.20 rupees per unit electricity generated for continuing the operations beyond the new deadlines.
“Unless the environment ministry has got a commitment from the power companies to award the contracts for construction for pollution control equipment in the next few months and start penalising those who miss to do so, this will turn into an interim milestone for dirty power plants to seek more extension after 2025 at the cost of the public health,” said Dahiya.
The environment ministry has issued the notification after getting request for it from the power ministry. The extension of deadline was sought for 448 operational power generating units, citing uncertainties and delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and other issues including import restrictions and liquidity crunch in the power sector.
“Extending the deadline once again will have grave repercussions for the fight against air pollution. It will also mean a complete mockery of the Supreme Court and Indian regulators’ efforts to control pollution from the coal-based thermal power sector over the last five years,” Sunita Narain, director general of the Central for Science and Environment (CSE), had said ahead of the extension. She had made this remark in February while cautioning against extending the deadline.
Narain had then said, “The power ministry’s move seems to have been influenced by the industry’s consistent efforts to dilute and delay the norms. The industry is obviously not bothered about the health risks posed by pollution from these coal-based power plants.”

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