The Russian Regime for Subsoil Use, Energy and Environmental Policy in the High North

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Abstract: As I he demand for energy is increasing rapidly more and more energy companies are exploring and investing in unstable regions and challenging climatic areas to secure supply of oil and gas. Russia is a country with a challenging climate and is rich in natural resources.

This article focuses on the current system of subsoil regulation in the Russian Federation, the environmental regulations, forward-looking policies concerning the High North by the Norwegian and the Russian Governments, and some current issues and programmes in place that may affect the situation and the environment in the High North.

INTRODUCTION

The demand for energy is increasing rapidly. More and more energy companies are exploring and investing in unstable regions and challenging climatic areas to secure supply of oil and gas. Many of these places are located offshore (in the ocean) and consist of vulnerable ecosystems. As a result of the growing demand for oil and the high oil prices, most companies with the expertise and technology get involved in projects located in challenging climatic areas of unstable regions. The land and sea areas of the northern parts of Europe are dominated by challenging climatic areas and vulnerable ecosystems. These land and sea areas are dominated by Norway and Russia.

Many define the Russian Federation as a risky country in which to invest. However, to understand the attraction of investing in the Russian energy market, a person must balance the risk with the opportunities in the Russian natural resources market. According to Energy Information Administration, Russia holds the world s largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves, and the eight largest oil reserves.1 Further, Russia is the world s largest exporter of natural gas, the second largest oil exporter, and the third largest energy consumer2

However, the major potential environmental effects from, for example, offshore drilling occur from the discharge of wastes, including drilling fluids (also referred to as drilling muds), drill cuttings and produced formation water. The decommissioning of platforms/rigs is also a potential environmental problem.3 Keeping this, and the above-mentioned information about Russia, in mind and the well-established fact that the oil industry is the world s biggest polluter, there has been little focus on environmental issues on the political agenda in Russia.

This article focuses on the current system of subsoil regulation in the Russian Federation, the environmental regulations, forward-looking policies concerning the High North by the Norwegian and the Russian Governments, and some current issues and programmes in place that may affect the situation and the environment in the High North. There is no separate legal regulation of subsoil use in the High North region in the Russian Federation. The article consists of two parts. The first part describes the Russian constitutional basis for subsoil use and some environmental issues interacting with subsoil use, the current legal regime of subsoil regulation including explaining the Russian subsoil law, environmental laws, the Russian product sharing agreement law, and the Russian conti¬nental shelf regulations.

The second part of the article focuses on Norwegian and Russian forward-looking policies for the High North, describing the Norwegian Integrated Management Plan for the Barents Sea, the report 'Barents 2020', and the Norwegian High North strategy. With respect to the Russian High North forward-looking policies, the article describes the Russian Energy Strategy, a suggested integrated approach in management of the Barents Sea, some possible affective current events, possible changes in the Russian Government, and Russian territorial claims.

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