Assam Environment

OIL to challenge PCBA “closure notice” in Gauhati High Court

-Avishek Sengupta

The state-owned Oil India Limited (OIL) is mulling on legal recourse challenging the “closure notice” by the Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCBA) on Friday directing OIL to close down all the production as well as drilling operations of all installations of Baghjan Oilfield.

The notice, issued by PCBA after a team sent by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal surveyed the burning gas well of OIL at Baghjan that caught fire on June 9 after leaking gas “uncontrollably” since a blowout incident on May 27.

As per the notice, all production and drilling operations of OIL at 21 wells—4 natural gas, 17 oil–at Baghjan oil field were asked to be shut down for “nonchalantly violating provisions of law and causing pollution to the environment”.

OIL spokesperson, Tridiv Hazarika had informed media on Sunday that the company “is intending to file a writ petition in Gauhati High Court challenging the order passed by PCBA,”

The Baghjan oil field has been in operation since 2003 and is one of the high yielding gas and oil fields of OIL.

The board, in its closure notice, had stated, “ It is seen that you have been not submitting the Annual Report regularly under Section 9 of the Hazardous & Other waste (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016, which is a serious violation and liable to be punished under the Law al force. WHEREAS, Pollution Control Board, Assam have refused your request for extension of time for reply to the Show Cause Notice issued to you on 10 06.2020.”

The board added, “… in exercising of powers conferred upon it (PCBA) under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; Section 33A of the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Section 31A of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 as amended till date, you are directed to Close down all the production as well as drilling operations of your all installations of Baghjan Oil Field forthwith and to take all necessary measures for extinguishing the fire/blow-out of the Well No. BGN-5”.

Oil in a statement informed, that the works in the wells that were shut down after protests by locals have resumed operations following a tripartite meeting held at Deputy Commissioner’s Tinsukia’s office on Saturday.

“However, drilling and workover operations in five more areas, which are outside the Baghjan area, are still stopped/blocked by protesters,” the release mentioned.

According to OIL due to stoppage/blockades, there was a production loss of 386 MT of Crude Oil and 0.37 MMSCM of Natural Gas as reported on 20-06-2020. Operations were disrupted in 30 Oil wells and 3 gas wells. Cumulative production loss since 27th May 2020 due to bandhs and blockades, 8013 MT Crude oil, 10.24 MMSCM of natural gas.

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