Centre insists fresh proposal for VAL expansion bid

Cuttack: Justifying its order stalling expansion work of Vedanta Alumina Refinery in Kalahandi district, the Centre on Wednesday insisted that the company should furnish a fresh proposal to obtain environmental clearance for such a bid.

"The process for environmental clearance has to be started de novo," said an affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in the Orissa High Court in response to a writ petition by Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) challenging the stalling order.

VAL in August 2007 had applied for expansion of its Lanjigarh-based existing refinery capacity from 1 to 6 MTPA and captive power plant from 75 to 300 MW. But pending environmental clearance from MoEF, the company went ahead with construction work for its six-fold refinery and four-fold power plant expansion proposal.

Exercising powers under Environment (Protection) Act1986 and Rules thereof, the MoEF in October last year had ordered the company to maintain status quo at the plant site and also withdrew the terms of reference (ToR) issued to the company in March 2009 for expansion.

Canceling the public hearing conducted by the company with respect to expansion project, the MoEF had also directed the Orissa Forest and Environment secretary to take legal action against the company for violating Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006.

However, challenging the MoEF order, VAL had moved the Orissa High Court through a writ petition and at the same time moved the ministry in at least three letters written in the months of October, November and December 2010 requesting for withdrawal of its October 20, 2010 directions.

Responding to the notices issued to it by the HC pertaining to VAL writ, the MoEF said that the requests of the company have been duly examined and under statutory provisions the violations committed by the company have been referred to Expert Appraisal Committees (EACs) for consideration on the merit of the proposal.

"In the case of VAL, the appraisal process was not completed. As the petitioner had violated the provisions of EIA notification of 2006, final direction were issued for withdrawal of terms of reference as well as cancellation of public hearing conducted in April 2009. The process of environmental clearance has to be started de novo," the MoEF affidavit said, adding VAL was requested on January 11 to submit the fresh proposal to the ministry for obtaining environmental clearance for its expansion project.

Adjourning the hearing of the case, the Division Bench of Chief Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice B N Mohapatra posted the matter to be heard again on February 21.