|Posted by Doug Norlen|
Over 150 people stuffed the large hearing room in the Sakhalin Administration building to hear the Russian Minister for Natural Resources, Yury Trutnev assail Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (SEIC, Operated by Royal Dutch/Shell) for mass environmental violations. Minister Trutnev cited over 54 environmental grievances including 5 that he said will be considered criminal offenses that will be filed in the near future. The whole scene resembled a public prosecution with defendants Ian Craig, CEO of SEIC, and David Greer, deputy CEO of SEIC, sitting and listening to the charges brought against them. Amongst perhaps 30 reporters were 10-15 photo and television journalists who stuck their cameras within inches of the faces of Craig and Greer. Both looked like they had been hit by a truck.
Several other people presented, including Pacific Environment’s partner, Dmitry Lisitsyn of Sakhalin Environment Watch, who gave another of his signature graphic photo presentations of project damage and superior practices from elsewhere, such as above ground crossing of earthquake faults on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Others who presented also projected graphic pictures, demonstrating that they are learning from Dmitry’s approach!
Violations cited included illegal logging, creation of fire hazards, damage to rivers from pipeline crossing, mass erosion, and more. Trutnev said that damage must be recalculated and a long term monitoring program be put in place. He calculated fines over ten billion rubles for damage to Aniva Bay, and other fines for other damage such as to fisheries.
Craig was asked to stand and speak to the charges against him. Craig said that of course SEIC will fully and transparently address the charges with the authorities and where appropriate take remedial action. Craig also said that this moment was the first time that he had heard of most of the charges and that SEIC is committed to using the highest international standards. You could almost hear the room full of people hissing back at him.
Minister Trutnev snapped back, saying, “Are your international standards as high as mine? Because if so, lets take a helicopter ride tomorrow so that you can see what I’ve seen and you will see that the project is far from Russian and international standards.” Trutnev also said that it’s ridiculous for Craig to claim that this is the first time he has heard of these problems because independent environmental groups have sent hundreds of letters about these problems. Trutnev also praised Sakhalin Environment Watch for its contribution to the prosecution, and acknowledged that the Ministry got involved in the problems late and is therefore partly responsible for allowing the environmental situation to get as bad as it has become.
Environmental groups present remarked that it was indeed an enjoyably surreal event they never predicted they would witness.
Later, SEIC gave a press conference that several environmental groups managed to sneak into. Nothing meaningful was said by Craig and Greer other than that they disputed that the subsea scouring underneath the PA-B platform is a problem any longer. No reporters raised this concern; the fact that SEIC brought this up without prompting may suggest yet another smoking gun.