Supreme Court-empowered green authority EPCA has assured industries operating in the NCR that it will urge the Centre to bring natural gas under the ambit of Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The EPCA's assurance came following a clutch of petitions by industry bodies seeking that they be provided some sort of cushioning in light of the recent ban on the use of Pet Coke and Furnace Oil (FO) in the National Capital Region.
Industrial units use these fuels for combustion. The industries are believed to have expressed in their petitions fear of losses as the ban on use of Pet Coke and FO is limited to the NCR, which essentially means that they may "lose out" to competitors operating out of other regions where these fuels can still be used.
However, EPCA (Environment Pollution - Prevention and Control Authority) chairman Bhure Lal and member Sunita Narain tried to allay their concerns citing the new draft standards for SOX and NOX emissions, which will effectively spell the end for these sulphur-heavy fuels.
"We will meet the petroleum minister and request him to consider the industry demand," Narain said.
So, while these fuels cannot be used at all in the NCR (Delhi had imposed a ban way back in 1996), in other parts of the country industries will have to adhere to the stringent emission standards, 600 and 300 micrograms per cubic metre for SOX and NOX respectively, which will come into effect once officially notified by the ministry.
In the absence of any emission standards, the use of these fuels were rampant in industries, generating "enormous amounts" of air pollutants, especially in the National Capital Region, according to the Supreme Court-appointed body.
Pet Coke and FO are bottom-of-the-barrel product at refineries and widely used for being cheaper than natural gas and petrol.
The EPCA also assured the industry representatives that it will petition the Centre to bring natural gas under GST, as the high VAT (Value Added Tax) imposed on gas in states such as Uttar Pradesh was a major reason behind the popularity of cheaper yet polluting fuels such as Pet Coke and FO.
According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), natural gas has VAT as high as 26 per cent in states such as Uttar Pradesh, which is "fanning and expanding" the use of dirty fuels.
"Demand for pet-coke has increased to such an extent that last year India imported 14 million tonnes of pet-coke, which is more than the domestic production. If imports and domestic production are added, then India has used more pet-coke than China, when its pollution was at its peak," it said.
The astounding amount of sulphur content in these fuels becomes clear from the fact that while in BS-IV compliant petrol or diesel its 50 ppm (parts per million), in FO and pet coke it ranges between 15,000 and 74,000 ppm.