MAC: Mines and Communities

Energy, Smelly Farms and Spotted Owls

Published by MAC on 2007-06-15

Ash Tank Mishap Case

The Telegraph, Raipur, May 4: Korba police today registered a case against the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and a construction company in connection with the collapse of an ash tank yesterday.

The administration, however, denied reports that over two-dozen people went missing after slush from the tank spread to the adjoining areas. “The administration has received information of only one person missing. We cannot support the villagers’ claim unless we get some concrete information,” Korba superintendent of police Himanshu Gupta said.

A case has been lodged against the NTPC management and Bihar Construction, a company involved in the project, under Sections 337 and 269 of the Indian Penal Code, said Gupta.

Commercial Coal Mining Still a Distant Dream for NTPC


12th May 2006

NEW DELHI, MAY 11: State-owned power producer National Thermal Power Corporation’s (Ntpc) plans to start coal mining activity on a commercial basis may get delayed further. The power major has decided to use coal produced from all the seven blocks allocated to it for captive consumption to meet the growing requirement arising out of capacity additions.

The coal ministry had allocated seven coal blocks to the power utility earlier this year under government company dispensation to mine coal for captive as well as commercial use.

Ntpc sources said that though the company had earlier decided to use two out of seven blocks for commercial mining (to produce and sell coal in the open market), fresh assessment for captive requirements has prevented the plan from becoming operational.

The power utility is now planning to first begin mining from the existing blocks before presenting a fresh request to coal ministry to grant mines for commercial purpose.

Out of the seven coal blocks being allotted to Ntpc, three are located in North Karanpura, Jharkhand, one each in Singrauli (UP) and Raigarh in Chhattisgarh. For one of the blocks, Ntpc has already entered into a joint venture agreement with Coal India Limited (CIL) for mining activity. Sources however confirmed, the company may forge similar alliance with either a public or a private mining company for mining in other coal blocks.

“The annual production from these coal blocks is estimated to be 45 million tonnes. This could support generation of 10000 mw of power annually,” said an Ntpc official. According to sources, Ntpc is also learnt to have kicked off environmental impact studies for the captive coal blocks. Mine plan has also devised for one of the blocks.

Coal ministry sources said that Ntpc has been allocated coal blocks under government company dispensation where a PSU is permitted to mine coal previously reserved for Coal India Limited. At present, coal requirement of all the central power generating units is being met by Cil.

The government has decided to reserve a few of the Cil coal blocks to enhance production and bridge the demand-supply gap.

As per a study conducted by the Planning Commission, CIL would not be using many of the coal blocks reserved for it till the end of eleventh plan period. It is these blocks, the government now plans to deserve in favour of private and public sector companies for faster development of blocks.

US Giants Interested in Indian Coal

Silicon India

27th April 2006

WASHINGTON: Several US power companies such as GE and Caterpillar have evinced interest in investing in ultra-mega power projects, which India plans to build in the coming years.

In his presentation at the Indian Embassy here after completing the Washington DC part of a multi-city Road Show in the United States and Canada, Union Minister for Power Sushil Kumar Shinde said his Ministry is in the process of setting up Seven Ultra Mega Power Projects of 4000 MW each in India.

Two of these projects will be coal pithead based plants and three coastal plants based on imported coal. The projects will be in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat and Karnataka.

The Ministry of Power is inviting private investment including from the US in these shell companies, with the process of selection of private investors in these companies to be completed by January 2007.

Energy, Smelly Farms and Spotted Owls

By J.R. Pegg


15th June 2007

A Congressional debate over energy took center stage in Washington this week, revealing deep partisan differences over the nation's energy future as well as splits within the Democratic majority on climate change and fuel economy. The Bush administration pushed plans to assess the dangers of some toxic chemicals, to measure factory farm air pollution, and to reduce protected habitat for the spotted owl, while federal courts rebuked the White House for a trio of environmental policies.

Debating Energy

Senate Democrats had hoped to make serious progress this week on a broad package of energy bills, but found themselves stymied by Republicans over a proposal to force electric utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energy sources by 2020.)

The provision drew the ire of Republican senators from the Southeast, who argued that their states do not have the renewable resources to meet the standard and will have to pay to comply.

A Republican alternative to allow nuclear and hydroelectric power to count toward the standard was killed by Democrats, but the dispute left the issue in limbo and delayed further action until at least Tuesday.

The hard work on the bill has only just begin. Republicans are expected to push for inclusion of language to boost domestic oil and natural gas production and a debate looms over a $14 billion tax package that will be added to the bill next week. The tax provisions boost support for renwables, paying for the subsidies largely by eliminating oil industry tax breaks.

Democrats are bracing for a fight over fuel economy. The energy bill currently raises standards for cars and trucks to 35 miles per gallon, mpg, by 2020, with four percent annual increases from 2021 to 2030.

Their allies in Congress, notably Michigan's Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, have authored an alternative plan that lowers the overall fuel economy increase. It would set the mandated increase at 36 mpg standard for cars and 30 mpg for trucks by 2025 and remove the subsequent increases. It also calls on federal officials to take into account when implementing the new standards.

President George W. Bush already has issued a veto threat because of the fuel economy increase and over language to stiffen penalties for oil companies involved in price gouging.

On the other side of the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, reiterated her pledge to bring up a package of energy bills after the July 4 recess. But House Democrats disagree over climate change, particularly how federal and state governments should regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

Language in a draft bill before the House Energy and Commerce Committee would block California from implementing its own greenhouse gas limits for automobiles and would also prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, from approving state climate regulations.

Committee chair John Dingell of Michigan contends the bill is needed to prevent a patchwork of confusing climate regulations by state and federal agencies, but Pelosi says she will block the measure from consideration by the full House unless the controversial language is removed.

Courts Reject Bush Policies

Federal courts have frequently rejected the Bush administration's environmental policies and three decisions issued this week continued that trend.

On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the administration in a Superfund case, deciding that companies that voluntarily clean up hazardous waste sites can sue the federal government and other potentially responsible parties to recover remediation costs.

Two other decisions were further rebukes of controversial policies involving the protection of wild salmon and the regulation of a form of strip mining used by coal companies in Appalachia.

The salmon decision, issued by a district court judge in Seattle, rejected the Bush administration's 2004 decision to include hatchery-raised salmon in endangered species assessments. (Hatchery Salmon Don't Count as Wild

"It is clear that hatchery fish have important differences from wild fish," U.S. District Judge John Coughenour said in his ruling.

And a federal judge in West Virginia issued yet another rebuke to the administration's support for a controversial form of strip mining.

The practice - labeled mountaintop removal mining by environmentalists - is at best an inelegant, if efficient, way to mine for coal. The tops of mountains are literally blown off, allowing for easy access to coal deposits.

The technique creates massive amounts of debris and waste rubbish that coal companies bulldoze into nearby valleys and streambeds - a practice that has polluted and destroyed hundreds of miles of Appalachian waterways and thousands of acres of forests.

The decision issued this week said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lacks the authority to allow this kind of mining without Clean Water Act permits. It is the latest in a series of similar decisions rejecting the administration's position that such permits are not needed. Critics of the practice contend it would be prohibited if the Army Corps complied with the Clean Water Act.

Chemicals, Farm Smells, and Owls

The EPA this week released its draft list of 73 chemicals it plans to further evaluate for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system - a decade after the agency was required to do so.

Congress ordered the EPA to compile the list in 1996 with the passage of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act. Inaction by EPA prompted the Natural Resources Defense Council to file suit in 1999 to force the agency to publish the list.

The chemicals in question are believed to impact the growth and development, as well as hormonal and thyroid functions. Testing on the chemicals will not begin until at least next year, EPA officials said.

The EPA also announced the start of a voluntary program to study air emissions from massive poultry, dairy and hog farms - known as concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFOs. The 30 month, $14.6 million study will measure levels of hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, ammonia, nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds and other gases from livestock facilities.

The research will be conducted at 24 sites in nine states. Participants have been granted immunity from past and present Superfund, Clean Air Act, and Community Right to Know Act violations, as well as violations that may occur while the EPA is finalizing regulations over the next several years.

The program has been criticized by environmentalists, who argue there is ample data for the EPA to regulate air emissions from CAFOs under both the Clean Air Act and the Superfund law.

EPA also released proposals for cleaning up New Jersey's Passaic River, one of the nation's most polluted waterways. The river is laden with toxic chemicals and metals, as well as sewage and urban runoff.

The agency suggested either dredging or capping toxic sediment in the river. The proposed solutions would cost between $1.5 billion to $2.3 billion. The EPA plans to make a decision by October.

The proposals come in the wake of a report by the National Academy of Sciences that found little evidence that dredging projects carried out by the agency are successful. The study said EPA needed much better monitoring of such projects and should consider both the short-term and long-term effects of dredging.

It was largely a quiet week for the Interior Department - bar the release of a controversial plan to cut 1.5 million acres of protected habitat for the northern spotted owl. (See Spotted Owl Old Growth Habitat Protection Cut Back)

The plan is likely to re-ignite the bitter dispute over the threatened species as it could reopen large swaths of old growth Northwest forests to logging.

Environmentalists argue the plan is intended to do just that, noting that big chunks of the removed habitat are on federal land already being considered for renewed timber production. A final decision on the owl plan is due by June 2008.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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