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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Regulator fines Sakhalin II operator $15.8 mln for deforestation

MOSCOW, December 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's environmental regulator said on Wednesday it is fining the operator of the Sakhalin II oil and gas project in the Far East more than 390 million rubles ($15.8 million) for deforestation. Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of Rosprirodnadzor, said Sakhalin Energy had the option of paying the damages voluntarily. Otherwise, "the damages will be obtained through a procedure prescribed by law," he said. The ambitious Sakhalin II project, formerly led by Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell, was subjected to months of intense pressure last year from Russian authorities, who accused it of inflicting major environmental damage on Sakhalin Island, including deforestation, toxic waste dumping and soil erosion. The dispute was largely resolved after Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom acquired a controlling stake (50% plus one share) in the project last December, and authorities coordinated in March 2007 a plan to fix the damage. The minority partners in the project, Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi, currently hold 27.5%, 12.5% and 10% stakes in Sakhalin II.

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