Simple economics: Delhi-NCR's air quality commission has recommended bringing natural gas under the GST regime in order to drive prices down | Photo: DNA India

Air quality panel to seek 5% GST for natural gas

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas, is going to propose to the finance ministry to bring natural gas in the 5% slab under the GST framework, in order to bring down its price. Petroleum products are currently kept outside the GST regime, and natural gas attracts 14% central excise duty in addition to value added taxes levied by states.

The commission said it would make the cost of this cleaner fuel more competitive and therefore economically viable for industries to shift to gas over coal and other solid or liquid fuel. According to CAQM’s own findings, industrial units were a major contributor to the overall air pollution scenario in Delhi and the rest of the NCR. If the industry switches to cleaner gas-based operations, it will significantly cut down the air pollution.

Chimneys of gold processing units at Mumbai’s Kalbadevi razed to curb pollution

Forty of the more than 2,500 chimneys of gold processing units in Mumbai’s Kalbadevi area were demolished by authorities recently. The units operating in small establishments have been rented or sub-let, without any clearance. They process and clean gold with acids, releasing poisonous smoke and fumes from PVC pipes. 

The demolition drive is part of ongoing efforts to curb emissions from chimneys. Last year, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) acknowledged the pollution caused by gold processing units and made it mandatory for all BIS-certified assaying and hall-marking units to seek clearance under the Air and Water Pollution Act. The CPCB said that gold processing units release lead oxides and nitrous fumes.

Clean cooking gas scheme: Govt’s own data contradicts claim of 98% success

A recent survey put a question mark over the government’s claim of 98% success of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) scheme to boost the use of clean cooking gas in rural households. A National Family Health Survey, revealed that the usage of LPG cylinders remains low. The report said that the data of refilling of cylinders released by the central government to defend the success of the scheme actually comes from the supplier side, not the consumer side. It does not reflect the complete picture.

The government’s own survey of 22 states revealed that five years after the launch of the PMUY scheme, the overall usage of clean cooking fuel increased only by 20%. Houses that have LPG cylinders, may not necessarily be using them, reported Mongabay. Around half a million people die annually because of indoor air pollution in India. 

Will Biden be able to toughen vehicle emission standards?

The US President Joe Biden directed agencies to examine dozens of Trump-era rules, including carbon emissions, clean air rollbacks, and Clean Air Act rules on science and costs. Experts say any high standards Biden has in mind to stem emissions from industry through the Clean Air Act will face challenges in court.

The Biden administration has a long list of polluting sources to bring under greenhouse gas standards, including tailpipe emissions from vehicles. Trump softened rules on tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions. The two-part Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule scrapped California’s historic waiver to set its own vehicle emission standards, and pared back fuel efficiency standards for car manufacturers from 5% to 1.5%. Biden ordered agencies to consider the views of representatives from labor unions, states, and industry when evaluating the rule.

Biden asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reexamine Trump rules on scientific considerations and cost-benefit analyses under the Clean Air Act. Both rules put limits on how scientific research and cost and benefits are weighed under the statute, which critics worry could further impair Biden’s ability to craft new air regulations. 

US: Toyota to pay $180 million fine for a decade of clean air law violation

Toyota Motors will pay a $180 million fine for longstanding violations of America’s Clean Air Act. Toyota is not contesting the fine, which is the largest civil penalty ever levied for a breach of federal emissions-reporting requirements.

From about 2005 to 2015, Toyota failed to report defects that interfered with how its cars controlled tailpipe emissions, violating standards designed to protect public health and the environment from harmful air pollutants, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan.

Toyota managers and staff in Japan knew about the practice, but failed to stop it, and the automaker quite likely sold millions of vehicles with the defects, reported the NYT.

UK study links air pollution with irreversible sight loss

A new extensive study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, involving 115,954 subjects in the UK, revealed an increased risk of progressive and irreversible sight loss arising from air pollution exposure. The study, conducted on people between 40 and 69 years of age, showed that even small increases in pollutants, particularly small particulate matter, have a strong correlation with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Interestingly, researchers found PM2.5, PM10, NO2 and NOx exposure to all be associated with differences in retinal layer thickness.

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