Open Statement to the Head of Sochi Administration regarding the access to information and public participation in decision-making on environmental matters

ENVIRONMENTAL WATCH ON NORTH CAUCUSUS

<March 11, 2013>

Open Statement to the Head of Administration Sochi

A.N. Pakhomov

 

On public hearings related to Kudepsta thermal power plant gas supply

Dear Anatoly Nikolaevich!

            According to your orders ## 119, 120 of January 29, 2013, you assigned to hold public hearings related to gas supply system to the thermal power plant (Gas-distribution station (GRS) and Gas pipeline) in Kudepsta. You did so despite the fact that the plan construction of the power plant has not been approved and it is under consideration at FGU ‘Glavekspertiza Russia.’ The public proposal to include public representatives in the Commission on public hearings sent on February 25, 2013 was ignored.

During the joint gathering of the members of the hearings, which took place on March 6, 2013, it became evident that the chairman N.N. Kleimenova, of the organized Commission on public hearings did not show up.

Unfortunately, there is no federal legal framework on public hearings (meaning that there is no federal law like the Aarhus Convention prescribes). Despite the fact that Russia is not a party to this important for Russia and the ‘Olympic’ Sochi international treaty, the host city should follow its requirements.

It seems that we must respect the right of the Sochi community to access to complete and reliable information about conditions of their lives and the right to public participation in decision-making on issues that affect these conditions. It is especially concerned the specially protected areas of the Sochi National Park as these territories are the Sochi and Russian heritage.

According to the Article 12 of the Federal Law on ‘Environmental Protection,’ ‘non-governmental and other non-for-profit organizations working in the area of environmental protection, have a right, in accordance with the rule, to organize and conduct hearings on planning, allocation of objects of economic and other activity, which may damage the environment, put in danger life, health, and property of citizens.’

The only form of public discussion which gives a right to independently organize and conduct public hearings by NGOs is discussion of activities related to environmental impact assessment (EIA). In any other situation, municipal bodies have a duty to conduct public hearings.

Obligations of the Russian Federation and the host city of Sochi to organized public hearings are stated in the Bid Book (theme 5, Environment and Meteorology). “The overall project will:

• Preserve the original land surface, including saving topsoil and vegetation undisturbed by building projects to preserve the natural terrain;

• Create and enhance animal habitats within and surrounding the National Park and Biosphere Reserve areas;

• Provide ecological rehabilitation of disturbed urban areas;

• Launch forest management enhancement within the Sochi National Park;

• Improve forest fire-fighting capacity in the Sochi region;

• Enhancement of the integrated environmental plan for the City of Sochi;

• Development of environmental assessments and zoning improvements for the Sochi National Park, with regard to existing and designed facilities;

• Public hearings and support for transparency in the regional planning process for Sochi;

• Public hearings for the general lay-out and regional planning of the high-mountain resort area of Krasnaya Polyana; and

• Evaluation and monitoring of seismic conditions in the Sochi region.”

Public hearings on the planned construction of the gas supply to non-existed Kudepsta thermal power plant, assigned by you, violate principal provisions of the Sochi Bid Book, environmental legislation of Russia and compromise our city and country by ignorant preparation to the Olympic Games. GRS and gas supply grids are planned to be allocated on the territory of the National park using its 6.288 hectares. It is proposed to cut the forest, allocate two gas pipelines with high pressure (1.2 MPa) in a trench way with further re-cultivation of the damaged lands. These activities are planned despite the fact that there is GRS in Kudepsta itself. The Federal Law ‘On specially protected natural territories’ prohibits such barbaric type of activities on the territories of national parks.

It is very regretful that the customer, together with the connivance of the Sochi Administration, so openly ignored the Regulations on EIA and its heart provision on informing the public about conditions of planned activities on lands of Sochi National Park and about mitigation measures. In particular, the first obligatory step of EIA was ignored. During that step it is supposed to develop requirements specification on EIA. Customer representatives declared about the plan to prepare such requirements on the gathering on March 6, 2013.  Nobody developed such requirements specifications at all. The route of the gas pipeline and its connection to existing GRS was conducted in a non-alternative form, meaning that no alternatives were taken into account. This makes EIA a simple profanation.

According to EIA Regulations, public hearings must be conducted in 2 months as a minimum. During this time, the customer must inform the public about the planned project and planned mitigation measures. No measures to make such information publicly available were taken (no surveys, public discussions, seminars, etc.) by the customer or the Sochi Administration. It has been a month since the public hearings were announced. In other words, there was no public discussion on the issue. Moreover, electronic information was refused to be given to Environmental Watch on North Caucasus.

On March 6, 2013, on the day of public gathering, it became known that GRS to Kudepsta thermal power plant is included in the Federal Olympic Program by the order of the Federal Government of February 2, 2013. However, the plan of the project as a legal basis of the Olympic object was approved by the Deputy of the Minister of natural resources and environment, P.P. Gazitullin, on January 31, 2013. In other words, the project was approved before the project was included into the Federal Olympic Project. What does this mean if this is not falsification? It is evident that such approval cannot be legal.

Facing profanation and illegality in preparation to public hearings, EWNC representative proposed the members of the hearings to form the Commission on public hearings anew. V.V. Kimaev was elected as a chairman of Commission. After that, EWNC representatives asked the customer representative and Administration of Sochi about preparations to public hearings. After, it became evident that violations are outrageous and that public hearings cannot be conducted in such circumstances, EWNC representatives decided to re-schedule public hearings in 1 month as a minimum. It was decided to wait for the final decision being conducted by the state expertise authority; prepare, together with public, the requirements specifications to EIA, and make all necessary information publicly available. And only after that, invite citizens to discuss the announcement made by the customer about development the requirements specifications to EIA. Most of the new Commission agreed.

We attach the protocol with the Commission’s decision.

We recommend you to make information  publicly available, in particular on the issue of public hearings, information on planned construction parameters and its alternatives, about time and place of public hearings (as close to the site as possible).

We recommend you to be in compliance with the EIA Regulations which require to conduct public hearings and to define, together with the public, the procedure of the hearings.

            Recommend the customer to be in compliance with the Regulation on steps, timeframes, and organizing and technical activities of the discussion of the preliminary form of the EIA.

Member of the EWNC Council  ______________________ V.V. Kimaev

 

Attachments: protocol of the Commission on public hearings (2 pages); the power of attorney for V.V. Kimaev.

 

 

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About Yulia Genin

environmentalist
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One Response to Open Statement to the Head of Sochi Administration regarding the access to information and public participation in decision-making on environmental matters

  1. Pingback: Violation of the law on access to information and public participation in decision-making on environmental matters | Sochi Watch

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