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EthicalCorp.com: Gazprom – Moscow’s tightening grip on energy supply

Russian regulators are conducting environmental inspections at the now Gazprom-run Sakhalin pipeline project. But the Kremlin’s commitment to green standards remains in doubt.

At the end of last year, Shell was forced to cede control of the Sakhalin oil project to Russia’s Gazprom. The move was prompted by the suspension by the Russian authorities of a key environmental certificate. Although real environmental concerns did exist, Shell’s forced demotion was widely seen as a political move by the Kremlin to reassert its control over vital resource assets.

Certainly, this political explanation seems to have been borne out by subsequent events – the environmental objections to the project seem largely to have evaporated since Sakhalin II entered Gazprom hands. This has left campaigners frustrated. “I cannot say that anything is OK. Everything is probably worse than it was before,” says Dmitry Lisitsyn, the head of Sakhalin Environment Watch, an environmental group based on the island.

However, in the past few weeks, the Russian environmental authorities seem finally to have got themselves into gear. In late July, the Russian state agency responsible for industrial safety and environment protection – Rostekhnadzor – announced that construction of the Sakhalin II pipelines had been suspended because of violations in drainage systems at an active seismic area in the central part of Sakhalin Island. Subsequently, the natural resources committee of Sakhalin Regional Administration has called on the federal authorities to conduct a new “urgent” inspection of the pipeline route in order to address the alleged sub-standard construction methods.

Does this development mean that Shell’s expulsion from the Sakhalin project was not political? Does it mean that the Russian authorities really care about the environment? Perhaps not.

http://www.ethicalcorp.com/content.asp?ContentID=5371

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