By Laura Suleimenova
At a recent government sitting, Minister of Environmental Protection Nurlan Kapparov proposed to carry over this year's penalties for exceeding greenhouse gas emission limits to 2014 and to halve the price of punitive sanctions for mining, energy and industrial enterprises.
As it turned the reason for the weird statement of the country's chief environmentalist was simple.
The largest oil companies, in particular, TCO and NCOC - current and future contaminators of soil, air and water - are standing against tough environmental sanctions.
They believe the fight for ecology has grown into a primitive shake-money-out campaign with no mechanism and details that could show if the penalties are indeed being spent to recover environment.
Another strange fact, President of Kazakh Association of O&G Lawyers Zhumageldy Yelyubayev, who is also a legal adviser to Chevron Eurasia Unit, chairs the work group formed to reform environmental legislation.
Was the conflict of interests taken into account when appointing him?
Mr Yelyubayev is well known to the readers as opposing to participation of "street public" in public hearings, in other words, against people's involvement. See Ecology agencies see subsoil users as money bags - Chevron adviser and Mr Yelyubayev, you're not right.
May 30, at an environmental forum in Astana, Mr Yelyubayev stated:
"The biggest disadvantage of current legislation is the fact that it does not aim to recover already polluted environment."
According to Kenneth E. Mack, managing partner of Dechert’s law office in Almaty, existing laws are set to punish users of nature as much as three times for one emission - taxes, administrative penalties and damage recovery.
"Unlike other countries, regulations in Kazakhstan are applied in other way. Tax for excessive emission is collected in the amount 10 times more than tax for emission below allowed limit. None of the countries taken as example have such 10-fold value. On top of these, by Kazakh laws, administrative penalties and damage recovery sums are also levied," Mr Mack said at the forum.
Pierre Offant, Managing Director of NCOC, expressed his support to the statement:
"Our consortium is to start oil production at Kashagan soon, so to us it is important what the environmental legislation will look like."
Reps of companies unanimously agreed all these moments bring negative impact on Kazakhstan's investment prospects.
Tying penalties to tariffs
At the forum, it was suggested to create a new structure - National Environmental Fund.
In 2012, the country budget received over 29.3 billion tenge from ecologic sanctions, of which 25 billion were collected in Atyrau Oblast.
In accordance with Budget Code, all penalty payments from subsoil users pour to the republican budget. The bitter truth is not a penny from central treasury is being spent on ecology.
Given this, sole victims of pollution are the people of the oblast.
June 11, Minister Kapparov, as abovementioned, addressing in the government laid down a proposal to shift 2013 penalties to the next year and to cut them twice.
At that, he mentioned no word about claims from foreign companies, but more and more about protection of interests of domestic businesses.
Mr Kapparov said nearly 70% of overall CO2 emission accounts for members of Samruk-Kazyna Group of Companies.
Asset Magauov, General Director of Kazenergy Association, stated that punitive sanctions may lead to increase of heat and power tariffs.
A quite clear hint - it is ... the people who will win from reduction of environmental charges.
Seems like the matter is not just about gases, but blackmail as well.