Dead set: The Indian Supreme Court rejected a petition by power companies to extend the December 2021 deadline for the installation of emission-cutting technology | Photo: Business Standard

Big win for clean air: Top court rejects power firms’ plea to extend emission deadline to 2024

The Supreme Court has rejected power plants’ request to further extend the deadline to install technology to cut emissions by two years to 2024. According to emission norms, coal power plants are supposed to install Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) units that reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions. Over half of the country’s coal power plants are likely to miss the 2022 deadline, which the owners have blamed on high costs and “technical difficulties”. 

The original deadline of 2017 to retrofit polluting power plants with technology to cut emissions has already been extended twice, by five years. The lobby group, The Association of Power Producers (APP), said the top court denied blanket extension and now each project would be decided individually.

In what was criticised as a “systematic attempt” to dilute pollution norms, the Indian government last month removed rules that required power firms to wash coal saying the process caused more pollution. State-run NTPC Ltd even wants the law that requires trucks and wagons transporting coal to be covered with tarpaulin sheets, to be made non-mandatory. Experts said the top court should shut down the power plants if they fail to meet the norms. 

102 cities’ clean air plan has no regional coordination mechanism, plans replicated: Study  

India’s National Clean Air Plan (NCAP) may remain a non-starter since a new study revealed that none of the 102-city-specific clean air plans have proposed a coordination mechanism across state boundaries to curb air pollution. Further, states have replicated plans across many cities without addressing specific emission sources. The plans have no guidelines for coordination between state governments, said the  Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) study titled How Robust are Urban India’s Clean Air Plans? An Assessment of 102 cities.

According to experts, pollution from outside the cities’ borders account for at least 30% of its pollution. Researchers point out that outside border sources can contribute up to 50% of pollutants to a city. Delhi, for example, bears the brunt of crop burning in neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and UP. Delhi’s action plan lists three action points for curbing pollution from regional sources, but there’s no clear delineation of responsibilities between the state governments, the study revealed. 

The review shows that nine states with multiple non-attainment cities have used the same set of action points and timelines across all cities. For example, in Uttar Pradesh 14 of 15 non-attainment cities have identical plans.

China’s new rules reclassify petrol-electric hybrid cars as “low fuel” to help manufacturers

China has reclassified petrol-electric vehicles as “low fuel consumption passenger vehicles”, all to encourage carmakers to make hybrid cars, making it easier for automakers to meet environment quotas. China has one of the toughest norms for the production of fossil-fuel vehicles. Because of the older norms, big car manufacturers, including Tesla and Volkswagen, invested billions of dollars to produce all-electric and plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell cars. 

The older system drew flak for not offering incentives to carmakers to improve their petrol and diesel cars. The new rules now allow them to make petrol-electric hybrid vehicles (and not just plug-in EVs) to win ‘points’ and balance out the negative points they incur when they produce internal combustion engine vehicles.

Experts say the policy allows automakers to gradually make more petrol-electric hybrids and less of the more costly all-electric vehicles from 2021 through 2023. The petrol-electric cars would still be considered fossil-fuelled, but will be re-classified as ‘low fuel consumption passenger vehicles’. Significantly, the number of negative points incurred for making petrol-electric hybrids will be less than for petrol-only vehicles.

Top court raps Delhi car dealers for flouting orders, selling polluting BS-IV vehicles 

Have Delhi dealers sold double the number of polluting BS-IV vehicles? India’s Supreme Court has pulled up automobile dealers over flouting its March 27 order that allowed them 10 more days to sell and register BS-IV vehicles in Delhi. The dealers were allowed to sell and register 1.05 lakh BS-IV vehicles, but 2.55 lakh vehicles have been sold since then, the court was told. 

The Supreme Court has ordered the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations to submit details of the sale and registrations of vehicles. The top court also asked Centre to submit the details of BS-IV vehicles sold and registered after the court’s March 27 order. India has transitioned to the world’s cleanest emissions standard from April 1. It has gone straight to Euro-VI emission standards from Euro-IV.

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