To destroy nature - is it permissible? Environmental assessment threatens to nullify
By abandoning the pre-project environmental review, in just a few years the country will create a hopeless situation in both environmental protection and environmental protection.
A certain lull on the country's trash front associated with the pandemic seems to be coming to an end.
As Kommersant learned, a document is being developed in the bowels of the State Duma that proposes the complete abolition of the state environmental impact assessment (SEE) during the construction of the most dangerous facilities - for example, incinerators, waste disposal and disposal facilities, as well as landfill reclamation projects. It is interesting that the initiative does not come from the State Duma Committee on Ecology and Nature Management, whose position, according to committee chairman Vladimir Burmatov, is, on the contrary, aimed at tightening state control over the construction and operation of high-risk facilities. A package of amendments on the actual cancellation of the State Expertise in the field of ecology was prepared by the Committee for Transport and Construction as part of another bill designed to expedite the priority construction projects of Russian Railways.
Recall that the bill proposes to empower the President of the Russian Federation to abolish various standards in the construction of the most important railway facilities. According to Kommersant’s information, it was adopted at the end of December 2019, later the Council for the Codification of Civil Law considered this approach “conceptually unsuitable”. Nevertheless, the profile committee decided not to back down, and by the second reading some of the deputies (their names are not given) proposed to amend the law "On Environmental Expertise" not only for Russian Railways, but also for enterprises in the field of ecology. In particular, it is proposed to completely abolish the mandatory SEE design documentation for waste management facilities under construction — incinerators, waste disposal and disposal enterprises, and landfill reclamation projects. Note: - it is they who make the greatest contribution to environmental pollution. Also, state expertise will not need to go through almost all construction projects in specially protected natural areas.
It has been suggested that the abolition of the SEE is likely to be approved by business, and not only unscrupulous, whose projects may not pass an environmental review. Even responsible market participants are not satisfied with the bureaucracy, the complexity and duration of the existing procedure, the cost of passing the SEE, which costs several million rubles, including the preparation of all documents and calculations. In addition, the examination postpones the deadline for the completion of the facility by about seven to eight months. After a positive conclusion of the SEE, the documentation is checked at the Glavgosexpertiza under the Ministry of Construction. And if there were comments, then the company will have to go through all the stages again. This puts off the project for at least another year.
However, the abolition of the bureaucracy will deprive the public of the opportunity to express their opinion in the construction of a number of dangerous facilities, and may entail even more serious violations of the environmental rights of citizens and, accordingly, even more massive protests, which the authors of the amendments obviously did not take into account.
The bill has been prepared for second reading; there is a high probability of its adoption in the near future.
The interviewed “NI” experts evaluated the possible amendment of the law “On Environmental Expertise”, as well as the risks associated with these emergencies and possible damage to natural resources.
Olga Zatsepina, Head of Environmental Design, EcoStandard group
- The desire to remove SEE from the business is understandable. You can see the statistics for this year: by June, the Central Office of Rosprirodnadzor had examined 165 projects. The ratio of positive and negative conclusions is approximately 50 to 50. They rejected half of the objects and issued a negative conclusion. The question arises: how far do the projects not meet modern standards and how is the examination carried out - how formal is it from the point of view of the procedure?
We often encounter situations when we understand business: it is planned to build a modern facility, and the procedure for passing is extremely long. Entrepreneurs are clutching their heads - they are talking about millions of investments in a modern plant, and they don’t take documents at the SEE because the minutes of the public hearings do not indicate the phone number of the activist who participated in these hearings.
I think that this should not be about canceling the SEE, not about refusing public hearings, but about clearly spelling out the rules, procedure, there would be no formal reasons for rejecting the projects.
I believe that the Ministry of Natural Resources would be right to listen to the comments on the EIA Regulation, which is undergoing public discussion, and adopt clear, unambiguous rules that will really work. This will simplify the procedure and leave a thorough consideration of the project, but the moments that cause anger due to the obvious meaninglessness will be excluded.
It is necessary that Rosprirodnadzor (by analogy with the construction and Glavgosexpertiza) introduce the practice of official consultations on projects before submitting them for consideration. It is sometimes difficult to guess how they will interpret these or other legislative acts. This also brings great inconvenience - exchanging letters is difficult to understand something. Therefore, formal consultations directly with SEE experts would greatly help. Now, these 50% of failures in conclusions are received by the business without even understanding sometimes - what exactly did not suit the expert.
In addition, with the introduction of SEE of the objects of the first category, the volume of projects in the SEE has increased - there are not enough experts, they do not physically have time, and therefore use every opportunity not to take the project for consideration. For one project, we received an invoice for examination only a month after we submitted the documents .
Kirill Stepanov , Chairman of the National Audit Environmental Chamber
It is necessary to separate several stages. There is an environmental review of project documentation - this is what is supposed to be built. I cannot comment on what is included in the State Duma, the provisions that are there do not mean that the law will be adopted in the form in which it was submitted.
Speaking essentially, the examination is carried out at the pre-investment stage, and then a big hole appears in the legislation. In fact, we have no control over the results of the implementation of this project documentation in terms of the environmental impact of the already constructed facility. And besides this, we have absolutely no environmental audit. Therefore, many copies have already been broken about the issue - there is practically no independent environmental assessment, which would make it possible, from a professional point of view, to give an expert assessment of the impact of the object on the natural environment.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that either. From the materials that we received during the discussion of the next draft law on environmental auditing, we clearly saw that environmental auditing today is outside the legislative field. We do not have such a profession, there is no legal framework within which an environmental impact assessment could exist.
There is a public environmental review - this is when public organizations on their own initiative can initiate an examination. The question is, for what money do they spend all this? The public does not have free money that they could spend to pay for the activities of experts. Therefore, everything stops at the level of road blocking, an unprofessional look at existing problems. And our courts are reluctant to use an independent environmental assessment to substantiate their decision.
Therefore, we often experience pipeline breaks, Greenpeace writes a lot about this, industry is aging, enterprises are reluctant to invest in modernization. This is very costly and reduces the revenue side of the business. Any costs associated with environmental safety significantly affect business performance. These costs do not pay off quickly, but, if they pay off, it is only due to the fact that they agree in the form of agreements to reduce penalties by introducing new facilities.
- Is it not too late to conduct an environmental audit when everything is already built and environmental damage is done?
- What does it mean - built up? Life after that does not stop! Who can give an expert opinion on the amount of damage? Suppose some independent organization that is attached to a state institution, for example, a university, one that is funded by the state, that is, is directly dependent on the state. If the state company violates the legislation or is the state representing a large share of capital in this company In this case, some pressure on experts may be suspected, influence may be exerted. And the involvement of professional environmental auditors today in resolving issues related to the consequences of accidents, with the prevention of emergencies, with the issuance of conclusions even during the liquidation of facilities. For example, an enterprise or a bank buys an industrial facility, one of the significant factors is the environmental impact of this facility. And the damage that can be assessed as a risk that could affect profit in the event of such situations. Or when businesses go bankrupt or close. It is not clear who will bear the costs associated with the already implemented environmental impact.
- If the SEE is canceled at the stage of the investment project, will it not cause even more indignation of the citizens than the one we saw in Shies?
- And what does it mean - outrage? Indignation of whom? The public? Well, the population will make a noise - and so what? Well shut Shies. All this is unproven. Why there? Why didn’t you involve an independent environmental expert, and not being in the structure of a company or government? Even if it is a state program, the assessment should be given by a non-engaged expert! We made a noise, closed it, but what now to do? Unfortunately, there is no professional dialogue. We do not see a dialogue where professionals discuss the ecological structure of the country.
- How is the environmental review organized in the civilized world?
- All over the world there is such an institution as environmental audit. It is distributed among the professional community. The UN Sustainable Development Program has been adopted, which clearly defines the goals and objectives that need to be addressed with a comprehensive environmental impact, and an assessment mechanism is also provided. This applies not only to enterprises, but also to entire regions. Sustainable development is when economic development is carried out taking into account environmental and social aspects. The assessment should be comprehensive and verified by an independent organization.
Therefore, hundreds of thousands of multinational corporations cannot be listed on the London or New York Stock Exchange without reporting on standards that imply such an approach.
- Is the sustainable development program taken into account in Russian legislation?
- Such attempts were under President Medvedev, there were even government decisions on the need to introduce such reports for state-owned companies. Many of our oil and gas companies make such a report, those that are listed on Western exchanges. But the verification of these reports does not occur by Russian companies, by those whose conclusions are accepted by foreign financial institutions.
Natalya Chernykh, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Head of the Department of Forensic Ecology, PFUR named after Patrice Lumumba
- In short, I am against the initiative put forward by lawmakers. Environmental expertise is required!
- Opponents of environmental expertise speak of its bureaucratization and corruption capacity. Do you agree with these arguments?
- Any business can be considered from different points of view. Corruption can be everywhere, but this does not mean that we should cancel any good actions in connection with this danger. We must fight not with environmental expertise, but with the corruption component. This is a completely different aspect.
If we remove the pre-project environmental assessment, then over the next ten years we will exacerbate the problem - in many ways the situation is already deplorable both in the protection and in the protection of the environment. Examination is one of the levers of influence on builders so that they comply with certain rules of caring for the environment.
Alexander Kuksa , Master of Ecology and Nature Management:
The idea is more than strange. Considering that incinerators are one of the most polluting enterprises, they need an environmental impact assessment to calculate the sanitary protection zone in order to understand what potential damage they might cause.
- If the SEE examination is canceled during the construction of factories, then it is canceled during the housing construction ... the main thing is to start, and then take it down. What is this fraught with?
- I agree that the procedure is highly bureaucratic. As an example: dosimetric control is carried out on the territory before the start of construction, at the stage of the pit, at the stage of construction of the foundation or basement and before the commissioning of the facility. But you must admit - this is redundant. If the first and second examinations showed zero values, why carry out these examinations further?
Very often a corruption component appears here. Important uncles in jackets say: guys, we understand how much money to give you so that you put the right seal. And on the other hand, ecology is such a science, which is remembered only when they begin to get very sick or die. They immediately recall the need for an environmental audit. There were cases, and not only in Russia, when there was a huge amount of radon in the house, after construction and commissioning. People got sick and died. For a long time they could not find and understand why this is happening on such a scale. Radon is an alpha-radioactive gas that comes from the soil and accumulates in poorly ventilated areas. In my practice, I came across the fact that in the basements of houses built on the site of the former landfill, landfill gases, including toxic ones, came. I came across projects when an environmentally useful house stands in the place where the wind blows from the Moscow Ring Road, resulting in an excess of carbon monoxide.
Environmental expertise is needed and important. Another thing is that it needs to be regulated and checked whether the developer really did it, and if so, then in an accredited laboratory.
It seems to me that the rules need to be tightened and the developer encouraged to do the examination.
There are responsible developers who order additional examinations, check the materials from which they intend to build before purchasing, and there are irresponsible ones who buy the cheapest materials, and then try to make a good face in a bad game, proving that they have good materials, and the residents ruined everything