Posco to consult MoEF before challenging NGT order

South Korean steel maker Posco is opting for dialogue and negotiation, rather than a legal route, to sort things out, after the National Green Tribunal suspended the environmental clearance for its $12-billion project in Orissa.

Sources close to the development said the world’s third-largest steel company was unlikely to challenge the tribunal’s order in a higher court before consulting the environment and forests ministry. Posco was relying on the ministry to guide it on its next course of action, they said. The company said it would “decide the future course of action only after a consultation with the ministry”.

Company representatives would meet environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan, once she joined back office next week, a ministry official said. Natarajan is in the US for a meeting at the UN headquarters. “The company may choose to challenge the order, but that will further delay the whole process of getting the clearance,” the official said. Posco can challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

Natarajan could not be reached for comments. Senior ministry officials also declined to comment on the issue, as the judgment questions the credibility of a committee formed during the tenure of the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh.

On March 30, the tribunal suspended the environment clearance granted to Posco’s proposed mega steel project in Orissa and directed the environment ministry to review the clearance given to the company in January 2011.

The ministry had granted environmental clearance to the project in 2007. But the project was reappraised in 2010-11 by its expert appraisal committee. After the review of the report, Ramesh granted environmental clearance to the project in January last year, but with additional conditions.

After the clearance in 2011, no substantial construction work has started, as the state government is yet to hand over the land required for setting up the plant.

The tribunal pointed at departmental bias during Ramesh’s regime. It observed the appointment of Meena Gupta as chairman of the committee to review the environmental clearance showed “departmental bias”, as she had only supported the environment clearance granted to Posco earlier during her tenure as the secretary of the ministry. “The entire process was vitiated in the eyes of law,” the tribunal said.

The tribunal pointed out that the memorandum of understanding between the Orissa government and Posco stated the project was for the production of 12 million tonnes of steel per annum (mtpa), but the environment impact assessment (EIA) report had been prepared only for 4 mtpa in the first phase.

It said the ministry should take “policy decision” that in projects of such magnitude, the EIA should be done for the complete project. “The EIA should assess it for the full capacity right from the beginning.”

[Source – Business Standard]

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