A long-awaited law on sea protection from oil spills finally passed the Russian Parliament
This became a significant achievement of WWF Russia that worked on it diligently for many years and gathered more than 120 thousand signatures of Russian citizens during the Earth Hour in the beginning of the year.
An idea of creating such a law in Russia appeared in the end of 2007 after a catastrophical oil spill in Kerchensky strait in the South of Russia. WWF Russia prepared a concept of such a law on oil spill sea protection and after sending it out to relevant government bodies, began to push this idea forward.
Later due to WWF’s initiative a round table in the Russian State Duma (Parliament) took place on that issue and in 2010 ecologists developed a draft of the new law together with the specialized committee on environment. However, in the fall of 2011 State Duma approved a first hearing of the similar law draft, that was prepared simultaneously by the Ministry of Natural Resources. In that law draft a whole row of very important issues was missing.
That is why WWF Russia decided to gather signatures of Russian citizens to support the full version of the law draft for protection of the seas. During the Earth Hour 2012 more than 120 thousands of signatures were gathered. After that an agreement was reached that WWF Russia’s experts together with Ministry of Natural resources and a specialized state duma committee will rework the draft that was accepted in the first hearing
This work was successfully done and as a result a text of the law that was prepared for the second hearing included the most important aspects that were needed to make that law serve nature protection. “Even though we couldn’t include 100% of all the changes that we wanted – says Ekaterina Khmeleva, coordinator of program on environmental legislation, WWF Russia. – For example, we didn’t manage to negotiate segregation of special zones, where extraction and transportation of hydrocarbons would be prohibited.
A new version of the law establishes special conditions for extracting and transportation of hydrocarbons on the continental shelf, in the inner sea waters and on the territorial seas of Russia. Those conditions are aimed to protect the seas from oil pollution. For example, the law widens responsibilities on prevention of oil spills of the operating companies.
“There is a big progress in regulation of coordination of the response in case of oil spills – says Khmeleva. – The new law establishes an approach of a mandatory full restitution to the environment in case of an oil spill, including water- and bio-resources. Here at it is pointed out that the owner of the license bears responsibility even in cases then a spill happens through a fault of his contractor.”
Also, this law allows a possibility for engaging of volunteers for liquidation of oil spills and their consequences on shore.
“We think that the steps that are now fixed in the law will essentially improve the situation in the legal regulation in protection of seas from oil pollution – says Khmeleva. - However, they are not solving all problems in that area. That is why we are not stopping on the achieved and will continue our work on that issue further”.