Russian Regional government to sue Transneft over major oil spill

Feb 20, 1997 01:00 AM

After suffering from multiple oil leaks in recent years, authorities in this Volga River city plan to sue a pipeline operator following a major oil spill. Some 1,500 metric tons (10,400 barrels) of oil leaked from a ruptured pipeline recently in the latest spill near Saratov, a city about 700 kilometres (450 miles) south-east of Moscow. The region's Ecology and Natural Resources Committee plans to file suit for ecological damage against the pipeline operator, the Saratov branch of the state-owned Transneft Company, said the committee's head Alexander Malikov. Malikov estimated environmental damage at 12 billion rubles ($ 2.1 mm), according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. The spill contaminated about 70 hectares (173 acres) of land. The oil got into a creek that feeds the Volga, Russia's longest river. Fortunately, the river was frozen over and the oil has been sitting atop the ice, and can be cleaned up. The pipeline rupture has been plugged and oil resumed flowing, while the cleanup operation continued, said Yuri Golikov who heads the pipeline's Saratov office. He said the company sent about 80 people to build a 4.2-kilometre (2.5-mile) long dam to stop the oil from spreading.
Tight government budgets have left most of Russia's infrastructure in disrepair, and pipeline ruptures are frequent. There were 23 leaks in two years in Saratov region alone, Malikov said. Meanwhile, Greenpeace called on the Russian government to take urgent steps to improve its pipelines. According to Greenpeace, there are over 200,000 kilometres (125,000 miles) of pipelines in Russia. Many have been in service more than 15 years and require repairs or maintenance.

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