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PCBA recalls closure notice served to OIL

By Ron Duarah

DIBRUGARH, June 22 - After a day of hectic discussions between Oil India Limited (OIL) and the Pollution Control Board, Assam (PCBA), the latter recalled its closure notice of June 19, even as the PSU major has assured to respond to all the queries of the PCBA. An undertaking to this effect has been submitted today.

The discussions were led by OIL Chairman and Managing Director and PCBA Chairman. The recall letter, No. WB/DIB/T-396/08-09/288/147 dated June 22, 2020 was received by OIL this evening. A copy of this recall order is also available with this newspaper.

Dr DN Das, member secretary of PCBA, has asked OIL in the letter to respond to the environment body�s queries within the next 15 days. Their demands include a detailed environmental management plan in the face of the fire disaster at Baghjan. The other conditions relate to disposal of hazardous waste. These would have to adhere to the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

The PCBA had earlier on June 19 asked OIL to close down its drilling and exploration works in the Baghjan area, saying environmental clearances were not taken to commence operations. The interesting part is that OIL has been operating in Baghjan since the past eight years, with several high producing oil wells, yielding crude oil and natural gas.

As such, the PCBA letter No. WB/DIB/T-396/08-09/243 dated June 19, 2020 came as a shock to OIL. The letter, with the subject line �Closure Notice�, accused OIL of violating ten conditions. The letter-cum-notice was addressed to the Resident Chief Executive of OIL at Duliajan.

The PCBA seems to have issued the �closure notice� in haste. Because under laws governing petroleum exploration, oilfields of OIL are �owned� by the company�s Director (Exploration & Drilling), and this officer should have been addressed for any oilfield operational matters. This flaw has been identified by a lawyer here.

On Tuesday, the Union secretary for petroleum and natural gas, Tarun Kapoor will be visiting Assam for the first time in his current designation. He will be visiting Baghjan to apprise himself of the ground situation and also take stock of issues OIL is facing.

Meanwhile, at the Baghjan disaster site, a slew of activities are on at a feverish pace, in preparation for the final fire dousing moves. More specialised gear are being air-freighted from Singapore on requisition by the specialists from M/s Alert.

The seismological data being compiled by the NEIST (RRL-Jorhat) scientists will be sent to Jorhat for evaluation. These data would also be sent to the Hyderabad-based National Geophysical Research Institute for indepth superspecialty analysis. The tremors that have terrorised thousands of Baghjan residents continue to rock the area on a regular basis. So much so that the locals have now become used to it. Their only concern now is the structural safety of their homes.

An OIL press release issued today stated that though the Baghjan EPS blockade was lifted on June 20, protests outside of Baghjan area are still continuing. �Producing oil/gas wells continue to be stopped/blocked in some areas resulting in significant loss of oil & gas production. Further, drilling and work over operations at 6 locations also continue to be obstructed,� the statement said.

Till Sunday evening, OIL has claimed a net production loss of 8,162 tonnes of crude oil and 1,040 lakh cubic metres of natural gas from the company�s operational areas in the Tinsukia district. Production operations continue to be disrupted at 22 oil wells and one gas well locations in the district, the press release stated.

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