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RadioFreeEurope: The Green Card

Critics, however, claim that the government seems to play the environmental card when it suits Russia’s interests. The $20 billion Sakhalin-II gas project in Russia’s Far East, for example, came under fire in October 2006 when the Natural Resources Ministry threatened to halt the undertaking unless Russian environmental laws were adhered to.
 
Russia has also been criticized for bulldozing environmental concerns as it engages in the massive transformation of the Black Sea resort of Sochi ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
 
The foreign companies involved in the massive Sakhalin-II project — Britain’s Royal Dutch Shell and Japan’s Mitsui and Mitsubishi — faced huge fines for their environmental failures relating to the construction of an 800-kilometer gas pipeline, a liquefied natural gas plant, two oil platforms, and an oil terminal.
 
Environmentalists supported the claims that damage was being done to the environment, but the move was also widely seen as a clear sign that Moscow wanted to take over the foreign-led venture.
 
Eventually, the three companies sold off about half of their joint stake in Sakhalin-II to Gazprom, Russia’s state-run gas monopoly.
 
“Starting in 1997, ecologists began campaigning against this project,” explains

Greenpeace Russia’s Tsyplyonkov. “But it was only in 2006, when Gazprom started to make noises about taking control of the field, that the government with great satisfaction sounded the environmental alarm.”
 
He says that, speaking as an ecologist, “of course it’s good that Shell got a rap on the knuckles.” But on the other hand, he says, “I understand that in all likelihood, nothing will change. That’s to say that now that Gazprom has become the sole facilitator of the project, the situation will remain the same as it was before.”
 
Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources, tells RFE/RL that it would be backward thinking to believe that the Russian government uses ecology to further its own ends.
 
“I don’t think it’s quite like that. But I think that unfortunately many of these [foreign oil] companies want to make out that it’s like that,” Mitvol says. “I can tell you that even now some people think of Russia as a country where bears walk along the streets and everyone plays the accordion. You only need to come to Moscow to see that this is not the case.”
 
Nevertheless, the perception that Russia has much work to do in terms of environmentalism is pervasive.

Extract from the article: Russia: Oil Spill Highlights Tragic Environmental Legacy
By Chloe Arnold: Aftermath of the spill: November 28, 2007

For the complete article go to…

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/11/4E76545D-27AB-41CD-B1B1-9D415BD1C9A0.html

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