Monakhov S.K., the Director of the FGBU Caspian Marine Scientific Research Center (Astrakhan, Russia) was one of the participants of the International Economic Forum “Caspian Dialogue, 2017”, held on April 14, 2017 in Moscow. Sergei Konstantinovich’s speech at this forum on the legal basis for environmental protection in the exploration and development of offshore oil and gas fields attracted the attention of Caspian News International Informative Portal.
Caspian News: Sergey Konstantinovich, they say that, at the forum, you criticized the oil companies operating in the Caspian Sea, mentioning primarily Russian companies. What are they guilty of, because they have zero discharge, and in an environmental sense they are better than others?
Sergei Konstantinovich Monakhov: And what does this mean “zero discharge”? Where, in which normative legal document (a federal law, government decree or departmental order) is this term defined? It is easy to follow the rules, which are not prescribed anywhere.
Caspian News: Explain, please.
Sergei Konstantinovich Monakhov: Normally, a zero discharge in the world practice is a ban on dumping of drilling waste into a sea, which in this case is carried ashore for disposal and processing. But in addition to drilling waste, o lat of other kinds of drilling waste is formed – industrial, as well as reservoir and cooling waters, atmospheric precipitation falling on the surface of the platform, energy and flare discharges, deposited on the water surface. This list can be continued, but it is already clear that zero discharge is not to be coincided null. There is no absolute zero discharge, so this term must always be enclosed in quotation marks.
Caspian News: And what kind of “zero discharge” is used by Russian oil companies operating in the Caspian?
Sergei Konstantinovich Monakhov: Russian companies adhere to the strictest “zero discharge”, when the ban applies to all kind of waste, except cooling waters from power plants. Here, as they say, they are honored and praised. But the problem is not this – they do it illegally.
Caspian News: Why?
Sergey Konstantinovich Monakhov: I will explain. In 1998, the Russian government allowed the oil companies to explore and extract oil in the Northern Caspian with its resolution, but on one condition, namely, if they complied with special ecological and fishery requirements. In the same year, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia approved the requirements to “zero discharge” by its order. But in a year, this order was canceled. It turns out that for almost 20 years the exploration and development of oil and gas fields in the North Caspian has been conducted without legitimate grounds.
Caspian News: But after all, all companies have licenses for subsoil use, are there other permissive documents?
Sergei Konstantinovich Monakhov: It would be better if this question did not sound… After all, then all the claims should be redirected to those who issued these licenses and permits, knowing that by doing so he violated the government decree adopted in 1998.
Caspian News: It seems to me that you are talking about formalities. The main thing is that Russian oil companies adhere to high ecological standards, though unwritten.
Sergei Konstantinovich Monakhov: I agree, but only in part. You can live by concepts, without laws, but only if you follow them steadily. You know what a proverb now is in fashion – “we have lived according to the laws, lived by concepts, but now we are living according to the situation”. So, the situation seems to have been changed and in such a way that we cannot do anything without a proper law. Governor Anatoly Guzhvin, the initiator, by the way, of accepting special requirements, said at one time that “the level of environmental protection in the exploration and development of oil and gas in the North Caspian should be raised to an unattainable height.” And what do we see? This level decreases every year.
Caspian News: Could you give examples?
Sergei Konstantinovich Monakhov: Now none remembers the obligations of companies to direct 10 % of all investments to environmental protection. And the same special requirements excluded from the legislative acts and, thus, lost binding force, have another “character”, as environmental rules are developed by the oil companies themselves, and they themselves approve them as appendixes to the project documentation. Therefore, our desire to accept special requirements as a legislative act is a preventive measure.
Caspian News: Is this your personal point of view? Are there supporters and opponents to it?
Sergei Konstantinovich Monakhov: I will say that everyone who is familiar with this opinion, share it, especially when it comes to regional level. As an example, I would like to point out the approval of this point of view by the Maritime Council under the Governor of the Astrakhan region.
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