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Centre waives green nod for onshore, offshore oil and gas exploration

Monday, 20 Jan 2020
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The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has exempted oil and gas firms, looking to conduct exploratory drilling, from seeking environment clearance (EC).

The clearance is for both onshore and offshore drilling explorations and the process is an ecologically-intensive exercise that involves digging multiple wells and conducting seismic surveys offshore.

Until today, even exploratory surveys have merited the highest level of environmental scrutiny -- called category ‘A’-- that required project proponents to prepare an environment impact assessment (EIA) plan, have it scrutinised by a Centrally constituted committee of experts and subject the proposal to a public hearing involving local residents of the proposed project site.

While public hearings, even for category A projects, are frequently exempted if they are offshore, the new amendments demote exploratory projects to the category of ‘B2’. This means it will be conducted by the states concerned and will not require an EIA.

The move is part of a larger process of decentralisation by the Centre in that it seeks to form more regulatory actions to state and local units. Developing an offshore or onshore drilling site as a hydrocarbon block will however continue to merit ‘category A’ treatment.

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