Russian Businesses Seek Exemption From Environmental Laws Amid Pandemic

Russian companies have pleaded to the government for the suspension of enforcement of environmental regulations during the coronavirus pandemic, Kommersant reported.

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), an influential lobby group, warned that existing regulations would lead to an “uncontrolled spread of the disease,” according to its head Alexander Shokhin’s April 15 letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin cited by the business newspaper.

The letter’s 73-point list reportedly includes requests to halt environmental supervision, to eliminate industrial pollution fines and to push back new permits and payments until next year.

“We’ll instruct the appropriate departments to deal with the [request] as soon as we receive it,” Kommersant quoted the office of Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko, who is responsible for environmental affairs, as saying.

Last fall, the RSPP successfully lobbied the government to drastically water down its package of climate change legislation that was due to be part of Russia’s ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Experts and fellow business leaders have warned against easing environmental regulations.

“Relaxing environmental regulations risks people’s health and lives,” Kommersant quoted the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration’s (RANEPA) Tatyana Lanshina as saying.

“The pandemic affects everything, but clinics don’t stop working and the water, electricity and gas supplies don’t stop,” said Lanshina, a senior research associate at RANEPA’s center for economic modeling of energy and the environment.

Natalya Belyayeva, deputy chief of the Business Russia union’s environmental committee, called the RSPP’s proposal “outrageous.”

“What are we going to do in an environmental catastrophe? Wait for the environment to regurgitate us?” Belyayeva was quoted as saying.