New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Central government to relax its notification banning the use of pet-coke and furnace oil in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan as it permitted pet coke to be used an an ingredient by the cement and lime industry.
In pursuance to the top court’s October 24 order banning the use of pet-coke and furnace oil in NCR region of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, the Ministry of Environment and Forest had on November 15 asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to ban the use of pet-coke and furnace oil in the area.
The CPCB on November 15 itself issued the notification banning the use of both.
However, the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta said that the exemption on the use of pet-coke as an ingredient would be subject to the regulations to be framed by the Environment Ministry, and Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkarni assured the court that these would be framed in four weeks time.
The court said that the issue of air pollution affected all the states in equal measure, thus the emission norms to be fixed by the Ministry for the two fuels would be applicable across the country.
It also directed emission standards be set for the use of pet-coke by the lime industry.
On the Central government’s earlier submission that it was considering banning nthe import of pet-coke, the court asked to arrive at a decision after consulting the stakeholders including the high-powered EPCA.
A section of industry is resisting the move to ban on pet-coke’s import, saying that the quantity of fuel available within the country was insufficient to meet the demand and would lead to a monopoly situation.
The court also allowed the use of furnace oil by the thermal power plants as it was told that it was used only for starting or shutting down the furnace which happens once in six months or a year.
It was told that thermal power plants would require a minimum of one year to switch over to an alternate fuel and it would involve overhauling of the system including replacing the machinery.
While permitting the Central government to relax the CPCB’s November 15 notification, the top court slammed the Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan government for sleeping like “Kumbhkarna” over the issue and then blaming the court when it steps in.
The counsel appearing for the three states offered an unconditional apology as the court threatened to summon their Chief Secretaries.
The court reiterated its earlier suggestion to the all the states and union territories to consider adopt and enforcing the Environment Ministry decision and the CPCB notification prohibiting the use of pet coke and furnace oil by the industry in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, but also made it clear that for now it was not issuing any direction on that score.
The court order came on a batch of petitions including by Hindalco, National Thermal Power Corporation, and the cement and lime companies seeking the modification of ban order as they needed time to shift to an alternate cleaner fuel.