In Court

Published: Friday 30 April 2004

sole authority: The Supreme Court (SC) of India has ruled that only the Union government can enforce laws on mineral oil resources, which include natural gas (NG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG). It decreed that states couldn't regulate the supply of gas through pipelines laid on their territory. The SC gave its opinion on a presidential reference under Article 143 (1) of the Constitution.

Asserting the Centre's exclusive legislative competence over this issue, a constitution bench consisting of Justice S Rajender Babu, Justice K G Balakrishnan, Justice P V Reddi, Justice B N Srikrishna and Justice G P Mathur nullified a Gujarat legislation, calling it 'unconstitutional'. In April 2001, the Gujarat state assembly had enforced the Gujarat Gas (Regulation of Transmission, Supply and Distribution) Act empowering the state government to provide for "regulation of transmission, supply and distribution of gas, to promote gas-based industry in the state".

slick costs dear: The owners of a barge that spilled thousands of gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts have agreed to plead guilty. They will pay a fine of US $10 million, said to be the largest environmental penalty in the history of the US state.

On April 27, 2003, the Bouchard Transportation Company, Hicksville, New York, caused the spillage, killing over 450 birds and shutting thousands of hectares of shellfish beds. The oil spill that affected nearly 97 km of the Massachusetts coastline occurred when the tugboat towing a barge loaded with thick fuel oil veered off course, hitting nearby rocks. The impact caused a 12-foot hole at the bottom of the barge, ripping open one of the 10 oil tanks.

US attorney Michael Sullivan said that Bouchard is ready to accept that the Clean Water Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act were violated. The company has taken the responsibility of cleaning up and has paid over US $38 million. Scientists believe that the costs may rise depending on the long-term damage done to wildlife.

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