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Head of Land, Real Estate and Construction Practice (St Petersburg)
Ecology

Ecology

Legal regulation of the use of natural resources and of environmental protection is one of the most rapidly developing branches of Russian law. A stricter state policy on the environment is shaping manufacturing standards and is creating new challenges for modern business.

For over 6 years, lawyers of Pepeliaev Group have been supporting domestic and international companies in cases related to environmental compliance (protection of air, water, land, forest, mineral and other resources) as part of construction projects, the subsequent operation of industrial facilities, the exploration of the continental shelf and the handling of industrial and consumer waste.

Key services:

  • Reviewing the environmental protection requirements applicable to a project that is being implemented;
  • Applying hygiene and public health rules and regulations;
  • Advising on industrial safety;
  • Working on matters connected with the processing and recycling of waste and with the payment of environmental duty by manufacturers and commodity importers;
  • Support for projects taking place in specially protected natural areas;
  • Resolution of disputes related to harm caused to the environment and to other issues arising from the use of natural resources (including licensing).

Projects

Pepeliaev Group’s lawyers have alerted their client of the risks pertaining to the obligation to include overburden dumps in the State Register of Waste Disposal Facilities Our lawyers have prepared a legal opinion for a large mining company in Novosibirsk Region regarding the ‘legalisation’ of overburden dumps.
Pepeliaev Group’s lawyers have prepared a legal opinion for a large mining company in Novosibirsk Region regarding the ‘legalisation’ of overburden dumps by including them in the State Register of Waste Disposal Facilities. They have also worked out other options for managing mining waste which are acceptable in terms of current regulation.

There are a number of gaps and contradictions in the legal regulation of waste management. For instance, the Law on Production and Consumer Waste enshrines the principles for promoting the use of waste products, alongside the unified charge for storing and dumping waste where a person has no right to have the charge refunded after such waste has been used. Provisions regarding the best available technologies, which are predominantly set out in the national quality standards referred to in Russian as “GOSTs”, make it possible to use overburden (which is a natural soil) for reclamation or as raw materials and construction materials. Those documents, however, are not regulatory acts, nor are they treated as grounds for an exemption from waste disposal charges by the competent authority (i.e. the Federal Supervisory Natural Resources Management Service, abbreviated in Russian as “Rosprirodnadzor”). As a result, there are numerous bureaucratic hurdles involved in waste use, including in the form of demands that superfluous administrative procedures should be undergone (e.g. a state environmental expert review).

During the project, our lawyers have identified the legal implications of overburden dumps being recorded in the state register as waste disposal facilities and the risks of non-compliance with that obligation. They have also elaborated scenarios which the client can follow to defend its interests when decisions are issued which are inconsistent with well-established court and administrative practice involving the management of overburden waste.
The Russian Constitutional Court has confirmed that Zapolyarneft's lawyers and Pepeliaev Group have taken the correct position in terms of whether environmental charges are proportional
On 2 June 2015, the Russian Constitutional Court announced its resolution concerning the claim of OOO Zapolyarneft stating that environmental charges imposed on this company were disproportionate. One of the rules of the Russian Forestry Code and the Russian Government's resolution based on it were recognised as inconsistent with the Constitution.

The claimant, an oil producer, promptly performed clean up work, which to a significant extent removed the adverse consequences of an oil spillage resulting from a technology breakdown.

The legislative rules that were challenged were uncertain, and this gave rise to contradictions in court and administrative decisions. As a result, the amount charged to the claimant was of the same order as the fee that would have been imposed on it if it failed to clean up the spillage. When applied this way, the challenged rules discouraged companies from performing a clean up, because a company would lose out by doing this, incurring greater costs, when the amounts charged to it are factored in, than if it had refused to clean up. The Federal Supervisory Natural Resources Management Service and the courts that supported it took the stance that neither the level of pollution, nor the outcome of the clean up work is relevant, and that a fixed fee is to be paid for the violation that the company has committed.

'From the legal viewpoint the Constitutional Court handed down a profoundly justified and well-balanced decision. Both the oil company, as the claimant in the lawsuit, and we as its representatives adhered to a common position that it is not only the property interest which matters in this case. It is far more important that the law should promote the restoration of the forest's ecological system. However, what happened was precisely the opposite. Moreover, the general legal principle of proportionate liability should be observed in all the spheres, including environmental violations,' Pepeliaev Group's managing partner Sergey Pepeliaev noted.
Other projects