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WWF CALLS ON DEPUTIES TO REVISE DRAFT OIL SPILL PREVENTION LAW

03 july 2020
On July 3, the State Duma Committee held a meeting and considered in the second reading a draft law on the prevention and response to oil and oil products spills. WWF-Russia urges deputies to reconsider the proposal and make the necessary amendments

Bill No. 376642-7 "... is aimed at harmonizing the regulation of relations in the field of prevention and response to oil and oil products spills," says the explanatory note of the project.  However, experts are convinced that the document in its current state will neither protect people nor help save nature from industrial disasters.

“The text of the draft law legislates the need for companies to have an oil spill prevention and response plan (OSR plan), which is a plus. Still, the proposal does not contain any requirements for such a plan. The project must include the basic requirements for the plan and the degree of readiness of an enterprise to implement it. And if an organization has some remote, particularly hazardous facilities (as in the case of Norilsk Nickel and the diesel spill), then such a company should have its own forces and means to respond to oil spills," Ekaterina KhmelevaWWF-Russia's  Director on Green Economy and Governance, said at the meeting.

The clause concerning the procedure for developing and agreeing an OSR plan with the Government of the Russian Federation also lacks specifics. The draft law contains obligatory coordination with the environmental supervision authorities, but there is no article referring to other regulations, according to which emergency response (ER) specialists, who are able to really assess the organization's readiness or the adequacy of the OSR plans to eliminate the maximum spill, participate in the coordination of plans. 

“We consider it as an important weakness of the new bill that there are no procedures to ensure transparency of information on the development of oil spill response plans at the stage of preparation and at the stages of informing about them,” Ekaterina Khmeleva says. “The bill also does not mention public involvement. However, it is a matter of fact that we need to involve both environmental experts in the preparation of OSR plans, at least for the most dangerous facilities, and volunteers during response actions."

Public awareness will be facilitated by the statutory obligation of companies to publish in the public domain the approved OSR plan in the part that does not contain commercial and other secrets, as well as information on measures taken to collect, process, utilize, neutralize pollutants that have entered the environment through their fault.

WWF-Russia believes that it is necessary to expand the list of zones where it is prohibited to locate such facilities,  and set deadlines for the operation of field oil pipelines and other similar hazardous production facilities (HPFs) associated with the storage and transportation of oil/oil products and/or the number of industrial safety examinations in order to extend the life/operation of HPFs.

"The lesson with the diesel spill near Norilsk speaks volumes about the necessity of not only an organization's obligation to monitor the state of facilities to be fixed in the law, but the entire system of warning, production control and state supervision and public awareness should be built in a comprehensive manner," Ekaterina Khmeleva emphasizes.

Speaking about the financial mechanisms for solving the problem, WWF believes that the measures proposed by the draft law (insurance, bank guarantee, corporate reserve fund) will not be effective if the amount of damage caused exceeds the estimates of the OSR plan, and also in cases where the source of the spill is not identified.

Besides, the methodology for calculating compensation for damage proposed by the new bill will not help determine the amount of actual damage to life, health and property of citizens and legal entities, and requires significant improvements. A similar mechanism for accounting for damage has already been approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation in February 2019, and received a number of critical comments from experts. Obviously, it is inefficient to spend budgetary funds for remedies on this scale. WWF-Russia calls on the Government to take from the table the concept of a special state extrabudgetary compensation fund.

 Photo: (с) The Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM)

For additional information please contact
Director, Green Economy and Governance