Installation of VRS in retail petroleum outlets, directions issued by the Supreme Court

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While hearing the M/S Indian Oil Corporation Limited vs. V.B.R Menon case, the Supreme Court directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to ensure that all the retail petroleum outlets located in different cities with a population of more than 10 lakh and have a turnover of more than 300 KL/Month should install VRS (Vapor Recovery System) mechanism. The bench also stated that the installment process for VRS should be done within the fresh timeline as prescribed by the CPCB in its circular. The case was presented before the top Court bench comprising Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia. In addition, the directions issued by National Green Tribunal (NGT) that mandated CTE (Consent to Establish) and CTO (Consent to Operate) for new petroleum outlets were set aside.

The Original Application was filed by one of the respondents before the NGT raised the issue in regard to the non-installation of VRS in the petroleum outlets by the oil marketing companies. The basis for the filing of the original application was the order passed by the Principal Bench of the NGT in the Original Application (O.A.). The Principal Bench of the NGT issued directions to install Stage-I and Stage-II Vapor Recovery Devices (VRD) at all fuel stations, distribution centers, terminals, railway loading/unloading facilities, and airports in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The NGT adjudicated the O.A. and disposed of the same directing that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as well as the State Pollution Control Boards issue directions to make it mandatory to obtain CTE and CTO for new retail petroleum outlets as well as the existing retail petroleum outlets. 

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The bench while hearing the matter illustrated the apprehension on the part of the NGT that the installation of VRS may not be strictly monitored by the State Pollution Control Boards. SC also stated that the NGT issued directions to the CPCB & State Pollution Control Boards to issue a circular making it mandatory for obtaining the CTE and CTO as a condition precedent for establishing new petroleum outlets. Moreover, the bench said that “NGT has the power to direct the CPCB that it should exercise its powers under Section 5 of the Act 1986 for the purpose of protecting the environment.” The Supreme Court further highlighted that directions issued by the NGT in the impugned order as contained in para 69(iii) and (iv) were set aside. The bench added, “If there is breach of any of the guidelines issued by the CPCB vide Office Memorandum, then the concerned State Pollution Control Board shall proceed against the erring outlet in accordance with law.” The appeals were further disposed of by the Supreme Court bench.

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