Press Release/Permit to Pollute

Permit to Pollute – Study on Compliance of Emission Norms of Public Sector Thermal Power Plants in Tamil Nadu, 2021 Reveals a Regulatory Blackhole

4 March 2023, Chennai: A report by Healthy Energy Initiative, India reveals that none of the eleven public sector-owned Thermal Power Plants (TPPs) in Tamil Nadu is compliant with the monitoring requirements and emission norms set by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). TPPs of Tamil Nadu’s four major coal-burning clusters (Thiruvallur, Neyveli, Thoothukudi and Mettur) were found violating the continuous monitoring requirements and stack emission norms upto 53% of the time in the year 2021 revealing a regulatory black hole.

The study analysed one year’s continuous stack emission data of the eleven public sector TPPs in Tamilnadu. Nine out of eleven TPPs studied were in violation of the emission norms set by TNPCB. For instance, Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from NTPC Tamilnadu Energy Company Limited (NTECL), Thiruvallur during data availability were exceeding thresholds prescribed by TNPCB for 92% (unit 1) of data hours in 2021. SO2 irritates the lining of the nose, throat and lungs and may worsen existing respiratory illnesses, especially asthma. Particulate Matter (PM) emissions from North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS) – Stage II, Thiruvallur were exceeding thresholds for 78% (Chimney 2) of the data hours in 2021. Exposure to PM can lead to reduced lung function, development of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, increased rate of disease progression and reduction in life expectancy. These alarming exceedance periods expose TPPs’ continuous disregard for emission norms and failure of regulatory action for the same by TNPCB. This was despite the possession of the continuous stack emission monitoring data at TNPCB.

All eleven industries had even failed to monitor the emissions for varied periods ranging from 2% to 100% of the time in the year 2021. For instance, Tuticorin Thermal Power Station had “No Data” for 100% of the time in 2021 for both PM (unit 1) and Nitrogen oxides (NOx) (Unit 4) emissions. This means no monitoring at all of these pollutants throughout the year. “No Data” is the absence of data and shows a lack of commitment by regulatory bodies to even monitor the emissions from TPPs.

Although the government of Tamilnadu in the recently launched TN climate change mission committed to no new coal-based thermal power plants in the state, these regulatory roadblocks by TNPCB show that the TN climate change mission should steer its focus on pushing enforcement of emission norms and regulating the non-compliant existing power plants in the first place to curb air pollution from these coal-burning climate capitals.” said Durga Moorthy, Health Energy Initiative- India.

“Amidst establishing the fact that Respiratory illnesses are very high among under 5 years of children living around Ennore – which is one of the thermal power plant clusters in TN by a 2021 dated health study, the health impacts of the pollutants from TPPs are ignored. Apart from respiratory illness, cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease are some of the health impacts due to Particulate matter emissions. Failure of enforcement of emission norms by regulatory bodies is granting permission to pollute for industries and is an easy call to health degradation” said Dr Vishvaja Sambath of Health Energy Initiative – India.

For more information, contact: 9384687523 | 9629505983

Read the full report here:

Read the executive summary in Tamil here:

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