Komi Republic governor calls for more openness over tundra oil spills

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - June 23, 2017
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The head of Russia’s Komi Republic has called on Lukoil to share more information about oil spills in the region with local residents.

“It is important that you keep locals living in nearby settlements informed about developments, and that the population gets an objective picture,” Sergey Gaplikov told Lukoil Vice President Aleksandr Leyfrid.

The meeting took place on the backdrop of the recent major fire at the Alabushinskoye field, the production site in the oil-rich region. It took the oil company more than a month to extinguish the raging fire, which threatened the health and wellbeing of people living in nearby villages.

“Please support the organization of regular meetings with locals so that more light can be shed on issues related to production, and we can avoid doubts among the inhabitants and possible insinuations,” Gaplikov told Lukoil Vice President Aleksandr Leyfrid.

“People must know what is going on and the information must be objective,” Gaplikov said, a press release from the regional government reads.

Aleksandr Leyfrid is also the leader of regional company subsidiary, Lukoil-Komi.

The public has expressed major anger against the oil company in connection with the fire at the Alabushinskoye field. Several protest rallies have been held and demonstrators have demanded the closure of the field and a stop to well drilling along local rivers.

The uncontrolled fire posed a serious threat to the nearby Pechora River and its adjacent wetlands and lakes, regional environmental organisation Save Pechora says.

“Please support the organization of regular meetings with locals so that more light can be shed on issues related to production, and we can avoid doubts among the inhabitants and possible insinuations,” Gaplikov told Lukoil Vice President Aleksandr Leyfrid.

 

The public has expressed major anger against the oil company in connection with the fire at the Alabushinskoye field. Several protest rallies have been held and demonstrators have demanded the closure of the field and a stop to well drilling along local rivers.

The uncontrolled fire posed a serious threat to the nearby Pechora River and its adjacent wetlands and lakes, regional environmental organisation Save Pechora says.

The pollution of oil in the area is not the first. In a letter addressed to the environmental organization, a local inhabitant in the village of Shchelyabozh says their children “are ill all through the year,” and that she fears that the whole village ultimately will have to be resettled.

According to Leyfrid, the people responsible for the accident will be punished. He also said that new technology is being installed in regional fields and that this will help enhance environmental security.

Special safety valves normally used in offshore projects will be acquired and installed, he said.

“This will allow us to fully exclude the human factor.”

The oil fire at Alabushinskoye started on April 10 and was put out only about a month later.

The oil industry in the Komi Republic in 2016 produced a total of 15.1 million tons, an increase of 1.4 percent from 2015. Lukoil is the by far biggest producer in the region.