On June 9, the government of Arkhangelsk Oblast announced that it had unilaterally dissolved an agreement with Technopark LLC on supporting an investment project for the construction of a landfill for the import of waste from Moscow at station Shies. This happened because the investor had not carried out construction work on the designated site since June 2019. Lawyers explained the consequences of the ecotechnopark project’s exclusion from the register of priority investment projects to 7x7 and spoke on whether it really meant its termination.
What does the termination of the agreement with Technopark mean?
As the press service of the government of Arkhangelsk Oblast explained, the termination of the agreement and the exclusion of the project from the register of the priority projects deprives Technopark of advantages required in this case including tax concessions and special conditions for the land lease. At the same time, the officials of Arkhangelsk consider this decision to be the next stage of the Ecotechnopark Shies Project's termination. Deputy Chairman Yevgeny Avtushenko stated this at the regional government’s session on June 9.
The lawyers interviewed by 7x7 agree that there has actually been no talk about the project’s termination yet. Alexander Veselov, the Chairman of the Association of Entrepreneurs for Waste Recycling, calls the decision of the government of Arkhangelsk Oblast "a manifestation of regional patriotism" and "a symbolic step" showing that the region does not support this project and will not create privileges and benefits for it.
Alexander Kozenkov, a lawyer who represents the interests of the Urdoma Administration before the court on declaring the buildings at Shies unauthorized, believes that the aim of the termination of the agreement with Technopark is just to temporarily "calm people down" before the upcoming gubernatorial elections in September 2020, and after the elections, the authorities will continue implementing the project "with renewed vigor and under new circumstances":
- The project is not terminated. Otherwise, the defendant could have already pleaded no defense, signed a settlement agreement, and asked for six months to demolish the buildings at Shies. The acting Governor also made no formal statement that there would be no such project. Technopark was simply accused of slow implementation of the project. And that is it. The way it is done and when it is done indicate only a desire to keep everyone's attention away. This is a complete profanation. And I see people being deceived by a certain information realm where this is presented almost as an announced termination of the project.
Pavel Moiseyev, the head of the Bellona Ecological Association's legal project, agrees that it is too early to speak about the termination of the project at Shies, because a systemic issue with household waste in the cities with a million-plus population has not been solved yet, and not only Moscow, but St. Petersburg can be after very Arkhangelsk Oblast as well. But the fact that Arkhangelsk "has shown some spine" may give it a break for a couple of years during which the authorities of Moscow will try to find more loyal regions for their landfills.
Will Technopark be able to continue the landfill's construction?
It will. According to Natalia Belyaeva, the Deputy Chairman of the Ecology Committee of Delovaya Rossiya (‘Business Russia’), CEO of the Delphi Law Firm, although the loss of the priority project status is significant for the investor, it does not put an end to the construction of the landfill. She says that if Technopark considers the project’s implementation to be profitable even without any benefits, it will get on with it.
Ivan Ivanov, the Chairman of the Save Pechora Committee, draws attention to the fact that land lease agreements at station Shies are valid regardless of whether the project is in the priority register or not.
Another thing is that Technopark will most likely have to change the project in order to restore its priority status. According to Alexander Veselov, the Chairman of the Association of Entrepreneurs for Waste Recycling, it is to be expected that if the project is not "nullified", the investor will try to build a large waste processing plant on this site and will be forced to bring this project up for public discussion.
Natalia Belyaeva agrees that given the "amount of pre-construction activities" at Shies, the project may really be “rethought in favor of recycling.” She also believes that the built infrastructure is likely to be used to process local waste.
- It is doubtful that Arkhangelsk Oblast is different from any other subject, there are landfills with squashed waste, and it will be necessary to build new ones soon. Therefore, if we think about the needs of the region and engage companies that could or already process salvageable commodities, then why not? Shies itself could become, as it is called these days, a waste recycling facility which actually sorts and pre-treats waste for processing enterprises. The option is quite realistic, and if I were the investor, I would consider it, — she says.
Pavel Moiseyev, the head of the Bellona Ecological Association's legal project, believes that the residents of the city will hardly say yes to the recycling enterprise for the waste from Moscow, since there is no full-fledged waste sorting in the capital, so Technopark will only be able to offer a waste incineration plant as a recycling facility. But it is “possible to bring home” the disposal of local waste to residents.
Ivan Ivanov, the Chairman of the Save Pechora Committee, believes that the protesters against the construction of the landfill at Shies will accept no "rethinking of the project".
— They will believe nothing, even if you start building a community center or even a water park there. Any construction work will raise fears that something gross is being built there, — he is sure.
What should Technopark and regional authorities do to prove the project's termination?
The lawyers have different opinions about this. Natalia Belyaeva thinks that the termination of all contracts for the land, for connection to facilities, and other obligations that "are binding" the investor's company to the place will prove the termination of the project. The liquidation of a legal entity with its exclusion from the Unified State Register of Legal Entities will seem even more convincing.
Lawyer Alexander Kozenkov believes that in addition to the termination of the land lease agreement between Technopark and Russian Railways, it is also necessary to amend the General Plan of Urdoma where station Shies is located so that there is no waste management facility in it.
According to Pavel Moiseyev, the head of the Bellona Ecological Association's legal project, an ironclad guarantee requires more serious changes. For example, making amendments to the Federal Law No. 89-FZ On Production and Consumption Wastes that will provide for an obligatory referendum before concluding an agreement on waste import from other regions.
— The residents of Arkhangelsk Oblast themselves wanted this, but the Supreme Court refused it, and we have such an institution, — the lawyer notes. — Every region has its laws on local referendums, that is, they can set the referendum itself with no amendments needed. But it is necessary to amend the Federal Law so that the Governor, when concluding an agreement, has to hear people’s views and win their approval.
And Ivan Ivanov, the Chairman of the Save Pechora Committee, no longer trusts any papers and legal procedures:
— Construction of the dump at Shies began without any permits. They are currently reclaiming the land plot on paper, but in fact, nothing is happening. I tend to believe only if something is actually done. For example, when police officers come with bulldozers in order to demolish their buildings by the decision of the Commercial Court. An empty area without slabs and buildings, restored soil planted with saplings of trees — these will be the signs for us to relax.
Are activists going to break the camp at Shies?
They are not. According to Alexander Kozenkov, neither he himself nor many opponents of the landfill at Shies feel happy or satisfied with the government’s decision or think they have won:
— If it was an official announcement on behalf of the acting Governor who would thank the protesters, like, thank you, you have defended the region, there will be no project, because it is thought out poorly and harmful for the environment… But it is an obvious figment, that is all, - the lawyer believes.
Ivanov believes that the Shies Ecotechnopark's exclusion from the priority projects is not going to affect the activity of the protesters. He says that the camp at Shies will remain for a while even when the construction is stopped - serving as an old-stomping-grounds-style tourist attraction or even as a museum.
The construction of the landfill for the import of waste from Moscow began at station Shies on the border of Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic in the summer of 2018 without permits. Residents of the region and the neighboring Komi Republic regularly held protest actions, and activists organized duties on the eco-watch (a tent camp near the construction site of the landfill). In December 2019, it became known that Moscow had not included Shies in its territorial waste management scheme for the next 10 years.
Igor Orlov, the Governor of Arkhangelsk Oblast, resigned on April 2, 2020. Alexander Tsybulsky took up his post. On April 15, he stated that he was against the construction of the landfill at Shies, and on April 20, he said that the investor had started reclaiming the land plot at Shies.