SC asks CAQM to consider issues related to hugely polluting pet coke, says holistic view needed

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) to consider issues related to distribution of highly polluting petroleum coke used by various industries, saying a “holistic view” has to be taken to strike a balance between the needs of industries and imperatives of clean environment.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia passed the order while dealing with applications on the issue of import of pet coke and enhancement of import quota.

Petroleum coke or pet coke is a carbon-rich solid material derived from oil refining. It is used by aluminium and iron and steel industries apart from fuelling power plants. It is similar to coal but with different properties.

The bench noted the suggestions of senior advocate Aparajita Singh, who is assisting it as an amicus curiae in the matter relating to pollution, that the CAQM should look at the issue afresh keeping in mind the availability of pet coke and the requirement of its import.

“Thus, a holistic view would have to be taken as to the distribution of the pet coke available in the country and the pet coke required to be imported and how both of them should be distributed ,” the bench said.

“We thus delegate all these issues to the CAQM and if one may observe, this is their job,” it said.

During the hearing, the bench said all ministries concerned must act in tandem as it is in the interest of all to sort out the grievances raised by industries.

“All this can’t be thrown into the lap of the court,” it said.

The bench observed the reason for regulation by the apex court was that pet coke is highly polluting, especially when used as a fuel and in unregulated industries.

The bench noted it was practically very difficult for the court to monitor the quota of pet coke for different industries. The apex court, it said, was frequently approached with applications.

The bench said it would be appropriate that CAQM considers the other aspects raised by industries, and wherever any interim directions are required, the commission itself can pass those without being influenced by any other order which may be passed by courts.

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“….in so far as interim directions are concerned, the commission may take action between four and six weeks,” the court said, while disposing of some applications pending before it.

During the hearing, the amicus said the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority had given its report on the pet coke issue in 2018. She said the Authority has now been replaced by CAQM.

The amicus had suggested during the hearing that the apex court can send the matter related to pet coke back to the CAQM to consider it afresh while taking into account the domestic production and come out with a viable solution.

The apex court is hearing the pet coke issue that cropped up while it was adjudicating a matter which raised concern about air pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region.

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