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RIA Novosti: Prosecutors summon head of Sakhalin environmental service

Shell

19:14 | 17/ 10/ 2006 

MOSCOW, October 17 (RIA Novosti) – The Sakhalin prosecutor’s office for environmental protection has summoned the acting head of the local environmental agency for questioning, the Russian Natural Resources Ministry said Tuesday.

Dmitry Belanovich “has been ordered to attend the prosecutor’s office on October 18, with a full list of people involved in inspecting the observation of environmental protection legislation on Sakhalin,” the ministry said.

The $20-billion Sakhalin II project, run by the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company formed by Royal Dutch Shell (55%) and two Japan’s companies in the Far East under a production-sharing agreement dating back to 1994, has faced accusations of inadequate safety, massive volumes of waste disposal, seismic threats, erosion, and threats to marine life.

The ministry said the questioning of the official is part of an investigation into an appeal filed by Sakhalin Energy, which accuses Russia’s environmental watchdog (the Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources) of breaking the law while conducting a probe into the project.

Prosecutors have requested that Belanovich submit documents relating to the probe, including a list of the environmental watchdog experts involved, and reports.

The environmental agency’s deputy head Oleg Mitvol, who is leading the probe into the project, said his expert group had found numerous violation of conditions set out in its feasibility study, including the illegal routing of an oil pipeline through the territory of a national preservation area and environmental damage at Aniva Bay.

Mass fish and crab kills 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.

But Chris Finlayson, head of Shell Russia, said earlier Tuesday that allegations of environmental damage at Aniva Bay, near the village of Prigorodnoe, were mere speculation, and that 90% of the violations of which the company is accused by Russia’s environmental watchdog relate to an 800-kilometer (500 miles) oil pipeline, where Shell has already suspended work on several stretches.

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

In a bid to enforce the annulment, the environmental agency on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Natural Resources Ministry.

A Moscow district court refused to consider the agency’s lawsuit.

The Sakhalin II project 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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