Corporate polluters could see their ability to pay shareholders targeted if they are found responsible for damage to the environment, under new plans proposed by the Russian government amid a spate of ecological catastrophes.
On Wednesday, Moscow paper RBK published the leaked order, which was handed to the environmental, industrial, and trade ministers by the country’s deputy prime minister, Viktoria Abramchenko.
In the missive, she instructed officials to bring forward amendments that would “ensure the owners of industrial infrastructure facilities fulfill the obligation to eliminate the damage to the environment” and limit the passing on of profits from companies that fail to comply.
Dmitry Marinchenko, a senior director from financial giant the Fitch Group, told RBK that the proposals were a “pretty radical measure” and warned that, “if implemented, it is important that it is proportional and there is no room for abuse or unfair competition.”
In September, Abramchenko said that businesses should be “held responsible” for cleaning up after themselves, decommissioning facilities, and mopping up accumulated pollution on industrial sites. The government had come under pressure to strike a hard line against companies after the state pollution watchdog warned of the threat of an “ecological Chernobyl” because of oil waste and mercury seeping from an abandoned Siberian chemical plant.
Just last week, one of Russia’s largest companies, Norilsk Nickel, was in the firing line after a mineral processing plant in the Arctic Circle collapsed, killing three people. The firm’s billionaire president, Vladimir Potanin, Russia’s richest man, admitted to journalists that “this accident was presumably due to a gross violation of safety and industrial safety standards by the heads of the enterprise.”
The scandal-hit mining giant was fined a colossal $2 billion earlier this month after more than 20,000 tons of diesel fuel leaked from a storage tank into rivers and soil near the city of Norilsk, from which the firm draws its name. At the end of last year, Russian official Alexander Chupriyan called the disaster the worst “in the history of mankind.”
Despite legal action from prosecutors, the company’s share price has continued to rise, jumping around 60 percent since March last year. In 2021 alone, the value of the company has risen by close to seven percent.
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