Editorial: Hype over hydrocarbon

Hydrocarbon issue once again rocked the Tamilnadu Assembly Tuesday, with the DMK bringing a special calling attention motion. Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin said, “Yesterday, when Tamilnadu MPs questioned (in Parliament) about the implementation of the hydrocarbon schemes in the State, Petroleum Minister replied saying that permission was given for extracting hydrocarbon at seven places. Since the State Law Minister has said the project will not be allowed in Tamilnadu, a policy decision on the same should be taken and a resolution should be passed in the Assembly, in this session itself.” Replying to this, Law Minister C Ve Shanmugam said applications have been given to extract hydrocarbon from the State but the government has not taken any decision on them. Stating that hydrocarbon project cannot be implemented in TN without the permission of the State government, he added that the law allows to take criminal action against those who violate this.

“There is no need for arriving at a policy decision on this issue since already rules do not permit any company to implement the hydrocarbon project without consent of the State. The Tamilnadu government will never allow any project which will affect farmers as well as the environment. The companies that have got permission from the Centre have filed applications before the State government for conducting feasibility study, but the State government has not taken any decision on these applications,” he said.

Shanmugam said the Centre, as per its new Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy, was auctioning blocks and entered into MoU with successful entities. Though such entities may enter into an agreement with the Centre, it is compulsory to get the approval of the State government for either exploration or production of hydrocarbon (on land) in Tamilnadu, he asserted, citing related legal provisions. He recalled that following opposition from farmers, Jayalalithaa had set up a panel to look into (coal bed methane exploration) projects in Tamilnadu and later cancelled the approval (given during DMK rule). On protests, he said the government cannot own up responsibility for it, adding they cannot do anything about agitations being held for political reasons. The ruling and Opposition parties should arrive at a consensus on the issue and do whatever is good for the State, without falling prey to the designs of vested interests.

NT Bureau