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Reuters: FACTBOX-Russia’s environmental worries on Sakhalin

28 Sep 2006 13:39:50 GMT
Source: Reuters

MOSCOW, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Russia has ordered a full environmental probe of Royal Dutch Shell’s $20 billion Sakhalin-2 oil and gas development in the Russia’s Far East.

Russia’s environment watchdog RosPrirodNadzor says that Sakhalin Energy, the project operator, persistently violates environmental legislation.

In 2003, Russia’s State Environmental Expert Review (SEER) of Sakhalin-2 made 60 substantial recommendations aimed at reducing environmental and safety risks.

RosPrirodNadzor says Sakhalin Energy has so far implemented half of them.

Russia’s Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev told reporters this week the ministry has received numerous appeals from ecologists seeking to cancel the SEER.

Sakhalin Energy Chief Executive Ian Craig said this week the prime argument for revoking the SEER was not any failure by the company, but alleged procedural failures by the relevant Russian authorities during the preparation of the SEER in 2003.

“This development is surprising when one considers that the ministry, which is threatening revocation, robustly defended the very same SEER against almost identical claims in a Moscow court about one month ago, on the 29th of August,” he said. The court threw out the claims.

Trutnev has outlined the following issues regarding current environmental and safety risks of the project:

ENVIRONMENTAL RISKS: — Deforestation. After an inspection in July, RosPrirodNadzor said it found tens of cases of illegal forest clearance beyond approved pipeline routes. — Clogged river beds. Trutnev says works were undertaken without construction of protective facilities, with soil being dumped directly into river beds. — Damaged water areas. Trutnev says soil removed during dredging works in the Aniva Bay is being dumped directly into the bay in defiance of ecologists’ demands. This resulted in coastline changes as well as pollution of the bay.

POTENTIAL FOR PIPELINE DAMAGE: — Trutnev says pipelines were built across potential mudflow routes in three places.

The area prone to mudslides is around 20 km (12.4 miles) long. A single slide can contain around 500,000 cubic metres of mud, while 70,000 cubic metres is enough to destroy an underground pipeline.

Mudslides can lead to pipeline damages, oil spills, water contamination, destruction of technical equipment as well as human casualties. Mudslides can also hamper access of emergency and maintenance teams to the pipelines.

RosPrirodNadzor believes that deforestation, soil clogging and erosion due to pipeline construction work have multiplied the risk of mudslides in the area. It says mudslide risks were not taken into account during realisation of the project.

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