Following a massive fuel spill in the Russian Arctic, the environmental NGO Greenpeace Russia reports that the ecological damage to bodies of water in the affected region alone could exceed six billion rubles ($86.3 million).
“According to estimates from the head of Rosprirodnadzor, 15,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into rivers. If we apply the methodology of the Natural Resources Ministry to assess the ecological damage to bodies of water, the damage could amount to more than six billion rubles,” said Vladimir Chuprov, the project director for Greenpeace Russia.
Chuprov also added that this figure does not take into account multiplication factors that would increase the extent of the damage, such as soil contamination and the emission of harmful substances into the atmosphere.
Moreover, Greenpeace fears that given the significant amount of damage and the well-established precedent of Russian companies avoiding liability for oil and petroleum product spills, there is a risk that the plant’s owner — industrial giant “Nornickel” — will avoid taking full financial responsibility for the fuel spill.
There is a risk that the ecological damage will not be compensated for in full, since under the existing legislation compensation for damage can include the cost of cleaning up petroleum products, and in this case, what matters is not how much of the hazardous substance will remain in the environment, but how much the company will spend on clean up.
The fuel spill in question took place at a combined heat and power plant (CHP) belonging to the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company (a subsidiary of Nornickel) in the industrial city Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, on May 29. Diesel fuel spread into the ground around the plant, and spilled into the Daldykan and Ambarnaya rivers, contaminating an 180,000 square meter area.
Officials in Krasnoyarsk Krai took two days to respond to the accident, claiming that experts led them to believe that there was no significant environmental damage. The region declared a state of emergency on June 3. Officials also launched three criminal cases for ecological damage, but the director of the Norilsk plant has refused to testify in the case.