Economy

Ministers’ group finally okays Bill to set up coal regulator

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 29, 2013

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After nearly one year of discussions, the Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, finally cleared the Coal Regulatory Bill, paving the way for an independent authority to tackle issues of pricing, supply and quality.

The Bill will now go to the Cabinet for approval before being placed in Parliament. As Parliament is not in session, the Cabinet may consider an Ordinance so that a Coal Regulator can be set up immediately. If this happens, the Bill will need to go before Parliament within six months.

Minister of State for Power (Independent Charge) Jyotiraditya M. Scindia said the Bill is likely to be placed before the Cabinet in a ‘week or 10 days’.

On May 7, Chidambaram had said the proposed regulator would not have the power to set coal prices — the most contentious issue.

“Pricing must be left to the producer. The regulator will have powers to adjudicate on disputes related to price, quality, and supplies. All disputes will be adjudicated by the regulator. And then there will be an appellate authority,” Chidambaram had said.

After Wednesday’s GoM meeting, Scindia said the Bill balances the interest of all stakeholders. “It protects the interest of all stakeholders and at the same time gives a very judicious balance to the regulatory authority to be able to supervise the supply and demand of coal in the country.”

Now, it is to be seen how the Government separates the powers between the proposed regulator and the Office of the Coal Controller. At present, powers such as approval for coal mining rests with the latter. The Coal Ministry has not yet decided on dismantling the Coal Controller. The proposed regulator is expected to have the authority to approve methods of testing, sample collection and weighing, among others.

Power price may go up

Electricity produced from power stations with capacity of nearly 24,000 MW, which have no fuel linkage, may turn expensive because of higher fuel cost. Chidambaram, Scindia, and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal decided to take a proposal for ‘pass through of fuel cost’ to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

According to the blueprint, these units would get imported coal, which is expensive. The higher cost of expensive fuel would be passed on to the consumer.

“The main aim will be to increase supply of coal available to all sectors,” said Scindia.

On April 22, the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs had asked the Power and Coal Ministries to come up with a workable model for supplying coal to these fuel-starved units.

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Published on May 29, 2013
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