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RIA Novosti: Russian environmental watchdog mounts pressure on Sakhalin II

17:35 | 05/ 10/ 2006 

MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s environmental watchdog has submitted details to prosecutors on illegal deforestation being carried out through the Sakhalin II oil and gas project in the country’s Far East, the Natural Resources Ministry said Thursday.

The vast hydrocarbon project, led by Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell, has met with strong opposition from environmental groups and authorities over accusations of inadequate safety, massive volumes of waste disposal, seismic threats, erosion, and threats to marine life. The Ministry of Natural Resources withdrew a key permit for the project in September.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy chief of Russia’s Federal Natural Resources Service, said: “In talks with the Prosecutor’s Office, information was submitted on several forest areas of the Sakhalin Region, showing numerous instances off illegal deforestation on the territory of the state’s forest reserves, and destruction of the rich soil layer by building pipelines along the shore, through the Sakhalin II project.”

The ministry, the watchdog, and the Prosecutor’s Office have discussed measures to identify those infringing environmental laws, and the possible launching of criminal procedures.

The ministry’s press release said: “The Federal Natural Resources Service is preparing materials to be submitted to the General Prosecutor’s Office on infringements of environmental law by other contractors working on the Sakhalin II project. They include Italian, Russian, and British firms.”

The Russian authorities’ annulment of the 2003 Sakhalin Environmental Expert Review (SEER), following action from prosecutors, was met with protests from British, Dutch, U.S. and Japanese officials.

Environmental experts arrived in late September at the port of Korsakov, in southern Sakhalin, to inspect the area where excavation work was conducted earlier by project organizer Sakhalin Energy, under Sakhalin II.

Mass deaths of fish and crab have been reported in the area, and inspectors earlier established that a Sakhalin Energy vessel dumped a mixture of methylene dichloride and lubricating oil into the bay.

The Sakhalin II project, which is run by the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company and operated by Royal Dutch Shell, comprises an oil field with associated gas, a natural gas field with associated condensate production, a pipeline, a liquefied natural gas plant and an LNG export terminal. The two fields hold reserves totaling 150 million metric tons of oil, and 500 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

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