Delhi HC halts implementation of Kejriwal govt's waiver on power bills

The HC also directed the counsel for Delhi government to seek instructions and file an affidavit indicating the actual position regarding the proposal of Kejriwal government

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the city government not to implement the 50% subsidy announced by it to people who did not pay their power bills from October 2012 to December 2013.


In an oral order, a bench of justices BD Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul, said, "Don't take any further steps on it". The matter is now listed on 21st February for further hearing.


The Court, meanwhile, directed the standing counsel for the Delhi government to seek instructions and file an affidavit indicating the actual position regarding the proposal of then Aam Admi Party (AAP) government.


The court passed the order as there was "no clarity" on whether the Delhi cabinet had taken a decision to implement the subsidy as claimed by the petitioner Vivek Sharma.


The Court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging subsidy given by the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government to people who did not pay their power bills from October 2012 to December 2013.


The bench, after going through the government file, observed that a note by ex-CM Kejriwal had said the subsidy proposal needed to be placed before the cabinet.


However, the court also noted that while it appears that no decision had been taken, "there is no clarity on that".


"Get proper instructions and file an affidavit, if necessary, indicating the position," the bench told the Delhi government standing counsel.


During the proceedings, Sharma contended that the proposal appears to have been implemented as according to the media reports, AAP leader Manish Sisodia had openly said so.


Sharma also said that as per media reports, the Lt Governor has directed all government departments to implement the major orders of the former AAP government.


"That is not the point. (As per the file) absolutely no decision has been taken. There is no cabinet decision on paper," the bench told the petitioner.


The PIL has been filed against former Delhi government's announcement of 50% waiver on electricity bills of people who defaulted in payment, saying it will "spread chaos and anarchy by rewarding defaulters instead of penalising them."



Simple Indian

3 years ago

Wise decision by the Honorable HC. The AAP Govt in Delhi had indeed gone berserk with freebies, with no rationale on whom it should really benefit, and how it proposes to make good the subsidy or waiver amount. AAP Govt headed by Arvind Kejriwal was indeed indulging in policy decisions with a clear eye on the next LS polls, so even if it quits midway, as it did, it may garner more support the next time around. Wish our Constitution enabled a CAG-like authority to vet Govt schemes which are economically imprudent.


3 years ago

I had my reservations on the grounds of equity. i.e. Differentiating between those who paid and those who protested by not paying.

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Hydrogen-fuelled cars: A new road rage

In California, hydrogen-fuelled cars are gaining in popularity. Will their safety issues garner greater scrutiny?

It was just before 3 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon and traffic was moving smoothly on the Pomona Freeway, about 20 miles outside downtown Los Angeles. Suddenly, a truck carrying compressed hydrogen caught fire, and by the time the local fire department had arrived on the scene, two of the hydrogen tanks had begun venting gas, and flames had engulfed the truck’s cab.

It took almost seven hours for firefighters, working with a mix of chemicals and water, to end the threat.

“It had the full spectrum of colors,” Captain Will Pryor of the Los Angeles County Fire Department recalled of the fire on Nov. 14, 2013. “It’s like a log in a fire. You’d have blue parts of it. Orange parts of it.”

“There is a school nearby, there are multiple residences nearby, apartment buildings, office buildings,” Pryor said. “They were all in a half-mile blast radius, what was reported would be the blast radius of hydrogen.”

In the end, there were no casualties, and the worst-case scenario was avoided. But as California expands its use of hydrogen-fuelled cars and builds out its infrastructure for servicing those cars, more hydrogen is going to be trucked around.

Later this year, 1,000 of Hyundai’s hydrogen-fuelled cars will go on sale in California, and Toyota has announced plans for a commercial model to go on sale in 2015. Ford, Daimler, Nissan, General Motors and Honda have also announced plans for partnerships on hydrogen fuel cell technologies. The California Air Resources Board has projected that there will be over 50,000 electric and hydrogen cars in California by 2018.

California Gov. Jerry Brown last year agreed to devote more than $2 billion over the next decade to build 100 additional hydrogen fuelling stations. The state currently has 23 active stations.

Hydrogen as a fuel source is an attractive proposition mainly because it doesn’t emit toxic, heat-trapping pollutants the way gasoline does. An analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that for a mid-size SUV, the total greenhouse gas emissions from using hydrogen as a fuel is at worst half that for gasoline.

However, hydrogen poses several other risks that gasoline does not. It is highly flammable, and can ignite more easily than other fuels. Hydrogen is also colorless and odorless, making it difficult to readily detect leaks.

Environmental and regulatory experts have long worried about the threat posed by the vast array of dangerous materials daily being moved across the country, from nuclear waste to pesticides and compressed gases.

“As far as the aggregate risk that is presented to the American public, I don’t think it’s going to change significantly,” said Carl Southwell, a risk analyst who studies infrastructure and chemical risks. “But there will be slightly more risk to first responders and people near the hydrogen fire.”

A ProPublica review of voluntarily submitted data collected by the Department of Energy does show there have been some problems with hydrogen infrastructure nationally.

There have been 37 recorded “events” in recent years involving hydrogen trucks or fuelling stations. Of the 22 events recorded at fuelling stations, hydrogen was released in a dozen of them, and twice the releases resulted in fires. Fires occurred in five of the 15 recorded events involving hydrogen trucks.

At the moment, the transport of hydrogen is monitored by both state and federal agencies. The federal agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), says it requires various types of documentation and labelling for shipments of hydrogen and training for employees involved in its transport.

However, there have been recent reports —one by an inspector general with the federal Department of Transportation — asserting that the agency has been chronically understaffed and underfunded. A senior agency official recently conceded as much, saying funding from Congress had dried up and that the regulatory process he oversees was “kind of dying.”

Gordon Delcambre Jr., a PHMSA spokesman, told ProPublica that the agency ensures compliance of hazardous materials shippers and carriers by conducting unannounced inspections. But he acknowledged that federal regulations do not actually require such inspections or mandate how often they should occur.

ProPublica determined that the agency’s western office, which is responsible for 12 states, has just seven inspectors.

Warnings about the transport and use of dangerous materials of all kinds have been sounded for years. In 2007, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is in charge of enforcing regulations for cargo trucks and interstate buses, called for changes in its operations to meet the rise in vehicles that used hydrogen.

“The [current] regulations do not consider safety systems and equipment required for commercial vehicles using hydrogen as an alternative fuel,” the authors of the report said. But to date, the FMCSA has not made changes to include separate inspection procedures and regulations for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Quon Kwan, who helped compile the report at the FMCSA, said he was hopeful that more action would be taken in spite of the fact that the number of hydrogen-powered vehicles on the roads today are a “drop in the bucket” when set against the millions of diesel-powered trucks the agency is responsible for regulating.

Chief Jan Dunbar at the California Office of Emergency Services downplayed the challenge any increase in hydrogen transport and use might present to first responders.

“There’s nothing special about hydrogen that sets it apart from any other flammable gas,” he said.

California’s Office of the State Fire Marshal does have a 16-hour emergency response training program for alternative fuels vehicles. The curriculum allocates one hour to the discussion of hydrogen. But fire departments aren’t required to provide the course to their firefighters. Since the program was started in 2009, four classroom sessions have been conducted, each with 44 students. The manual for the program is also available for download on the State Fire Marshal’s website.

We have it available to departments. It’s whether or not they choose to access that,” said one instructor at the State Fire Marshal’s office.

Jennifer Hamilton, an education specialist at the California Fuel Cell Partnership, said she has been delivering hundreds of workshops on hydrogen fuel cells to firefighters.
Currently, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the Department of Energy are the two main organizations with outreach programs to educate firefighters on the properties of hydrogen and the working of hydrogen cars.

Hamilton estimates that her workshops have reached more than 5000 firefighters so far, but is quick to clarify that they do not qualify as true training.

“Training implies that there is some sort of certificate or credits and an approved curriculum,” she said. “We don’t give anything like that. Our program is at the information or awareness level.”


Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Gov. Jerry Brown had agreed to spend over $2 billion on hydrogen fueling stations. Gov. Brown has allocated $2 billion for clean-vehicle incentives over the next ten years. $20 million a year has been set aside specifically for hydrogen-fueling stations.




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