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RIA Novosti: Court refuses to review lawsuit on Sakhalin II probe

15:36 | 17/ 10/ 2006 

MOSCOW, October 17 (RIA Novosti) – A Moscow district court refused to consider Tuesday a lawsuit filed by Russia’s environmental watchdog against the Natural Resources Ministry to enforce the annulment of a 2003 environmental review for the massive Sakhalin II oil and gas project in Russia’s Far East.

The 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 court refused to consider the lawsuit because it believes that the Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources does not have the right to file this lawsuit,” said Dmitry Kolosov, a spokesperson for the environmental watchdog, after the court session.

On September 18, the ministry annulled its own 2003 Sakhalin Environmental Expert Review (SEER), which had given the project a positive evaluation, following action from prosecutors. But it has not formally implemented the decision.

“The draft document on annulling the environmental review of the Sakhalin II project has not been approved [by the environmental agency],” Kolosov earlier said. “We will insist [in court] that the annulment be formally implemented.”

If the court were to uphold the demands of the environmental watchdog, all activity under the Sakhalin II project would have been suspended until a new environmental survey was conducted, and until the project operator dealt with all environmental violations.

Kolosov said the environmental agency would appeal the decision in an appeals court.

The deputy head of the service, Oleg Mitvol, confirmed this Tuesday: “We will certainly appeal the court’s decision.”

The Sakhalin II project, which is run by the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company formed by Royal Dutch Shell (55%) and Japan’s Mitsui (25%) and Mitsubishi (20%), 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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