Fertile ground: Tamil Nadu bans fresh oil and gas exploration in state’s rice bowl, Cauvery delta | Photo: New Indian Express

Oil & gas projects halted in Cauvery Delta, with caveats

A new act passed in the Tamil Nadu Assembly has halted all new projects for oil and gas drilling in the Cauvery delta (also referred to as the food bowl of the state) after strong protests by local farming communities. The legislation — called the Tamil Nadu Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act 2020 — also bars the setting up of zinc and aluminium smelters, a ship breaking yard and tanneries in the region. The ruling could effectively cancel the 28 petroleum mining licenses issued to ONGC, that allowed for exploration over an area of 3,516 sqkm of highly productive farmland, and put a stop to extraction of coal-bed methane and shale gas in the region.

However, as per the act, the state government may add or remove districts that are now protected, as well as drop the ‘prohibited’ status of projects, if it so pleases, by serving a public notice. Yet, the development could embolden other communities to protest against the setting up of industrial-scale projects in sensitive regions. 

GE castigated over supporting coal plants in developing nations

General Electric (GE) seems to be under fire yet again, after being pulled up for being the technology provider to 15GW worth of proposed coal plants in developing nations. The figure would essentially make GE have the world’s seventh largest coal power pipeline, if it were treated as a country. Its support includes supplying equipment to a plant in Indonesia that would come up next to an existing facility that has been held responsible for a spike in local air pollution.

GE has already been served an open letter by activists from 17 countries to “get out of coal”, but the beleaguered firm maintains that its technologies — steam turbines and boilers — make for cleaner coal plants. However, IEEFA has accused it of a desperate, “fire sale”, because it alleges that GE couldn’t fund such expansion back in the US due to stricter emission standards.

US judge rejects White House’s policy, cancels 1 million acres of oil & gas leases

A federal judge in Idaho has cancelled the leases for oil and gas firms, that span an area of nearly one million sqkm, because it has ruled that the White House’s policy to limit public input on the decisions were “arbitrary and capricious”. The sharply worded ruling comes as another blow to the Trump administration’s incessant efforts to open to large swathes of protected lands to oil and gas exploration — that now comes with the tactic of deliberately limiting the time allowed for public comment and opposition to its energy policies.

The ruling also comes as a win for the environmentalists, who were fighting the leases as part of  a larger effort to protect 67 million acres of wilderness. The cancelling of the leases — awarded in 2018 — will protect more than 100,000 sq. miles of habitat for the Greater sage-grouse as well, which is a wild bird whose falling numbers have prompted the IUCN to classify it as ‘Near Threatened’.

BP exits three oil & gas groups over climate disagreements

BP (British Petroleum) has announced that it is exiting three key industry groups over differences in the way the members approach climate action. The three groups are the Western State Petroleum Association (WSPA), the American Fuel and Petroleum Manufacturers (AFPM) and the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), and BP’s decision comes, in part, over the lack of consensus towards its support for carbon pricing. The oil & gas giant has also committed to going carbon neutral by 2050, which makes it one of the few in the business to openly acknowledge the climate impact of continued GHG emissions.

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