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Legal Protection of Environment in Electric Power Industry

Maria I. Vasilyeva, Doctor of Law, Professor, Environmental and Land Law Department, Faculty of Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

Legal requirements aimed at environmental protection in the sphere of electric power industry are dealt with in various parts of Russian legislation. General requirements of environmental legislation are established with reference to various stages of an operating cycle. Th e article systematized special environmental requirements, taking into account types of power plants, as well as the requirements set out in water-, forestry-, health-related laws, legislation on wildlife and specially protected natural areas, laws regulating increasingly dangerous activities, rules for design and operation of energy facilities.

Electric power industry is known as a nature-intensive branch of economy which has a considerable negative influence on environment. The necessity of environmental protection is an essential operating condition of the electric power industry and a limiting factor of its development. The knowledge of the ecology-related requirements and restrictions established in the legislation is essentially important for understanding and evaluation of the legal environment of  electric power  generation and transmission activities .

According to the Energy Strategy of Russia for the period till 2030 (approved by the Order of the Russian Federation Government dated 13 November 2009, No. 1715-r), the basic purpose of the state energy policy in the sphere of maintenance of ecological safety of energy production is consecutive limitation of the pressure that the  fuel and energy sector puts on environment.

Similar restrictions are envisaged in the course of creation and implementation of economic, power and other strategies oriented to growth-balanced environmental protection interests. An important condition of for accomplishing a goal is availability of proportional regulatory means.

Legal requirements aimed at environmental protection in the sphere of electric power industry are found in different parts of the Russian legislation: mostly, in statutory acts of the special branch of the environmental law (1); partly, in the legislation regulating the relationships in energy industry area (2). The legislation on safety of hazardous production facilities is also applicable (3). Some criteria of ecological safety of electric power facilities are set by the sanitary and town-planning legislation (4). Environmental imperatives are specified in technical requirements to production processes (5). A distinguishing feature of legal regulation of environmental protection in energy industry is the existence of a significant body of corporate and local legal provisions (6). Further on, these groups of legal requirements are considered in the same sequence and in the extent that gives an idea about the content of environmental protection in electric power industry. Structuring of rules and regulations has been conducted by the author and aimed to guide  in placing (attributing to various kinds and levels of legislation) numerous environmental  protection rules and also to facilitate perception and information search for ecological requirements applicable to electric power industry.

1. The Russian environmental legislation includes the legislation on environmental protection and natural resource management.

Requirements of the environmental protection legislation are defined as  general requirements and special requirements by the Federal Law “On Protection of  Environment” dated 10 January 2002, No. 7-FZ.

The general requirements are established for any kinds of the economic and other activity, exerting negative influence on environment, in relation to various stages of a production cycle - to siting, design, construction, reconstruction, putting into operation, operation, temporary closing and liquidation. Such requirements include an obligation to take

measures  for environmental protection, recovery of environment, rational use and reproduction of natural resources, maintenance of environmental safety in light of both  near and remote ecological, economic, demographic and other consequences of operation of various facilities.

In relation to siting of  industrial facilities, the priority of preservation of favorable environment, biological diversity, rational use and reproduction of natural resources is enshrined in the law.

In the process of designing buildings, structures, constructions and other facilities, normative standards of admissible anthropogenic impact on environment should be taken into account;  measures for prevention and elimination of environmental pollution, and also ways of disposing of production and consumption wastes should be provided, and resource-saving, low-waste, non-waste and other best available technologies should be applied.

During the construction and reconstruction of the facilities, measures aimed at restoration of the natural environment, lands restoration, site improvements should be implemented. These measures are also compulsory during the operation of constructed facilities.

Putting facilities into operation  is performed upon the condition of comprehensive fulfillment of environmental protection measures stipulated by the design documentation. Putting into operation the facilities which have been not equipped by means and technologies of neutralization and safe disposal of waste, neutralization of emissions and discharges of polluting substances, means of control over environmental pollution is prohibited.

The persons or entities that are carrying out operation of buildings, structures, constructions and other facilities are obliged to observe the approved technologies and requirements in the field of environmental protection, restoration of environment, rational use and reproduction of natural resources, and to provide observance of normative environmental quality standards .

In the process of closing the facilities, measures of environmental restoration, including reproduction of environmental components, should be developed and implemented.

More details of requirements of atmospheric air protection from harmful (polluting) substances emissions and harmful physical and other negative influences are contained in the Federal Law “On Protection of Atmospheric Air” dated 04 May 1999, No. 96-FZ.

Implementation of the general environmental requirement about safe disposal of production wastes is maintained by provisions of the waste legislation (the Federal Law “On Production and Consumption Wastes” dated 24 June 1998, No. 89-FZ, the Federal Law “On Radioactive Waste Management and On Amending Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation” dated 11 July 2011, No. 190-FZ).

A number of special requirements of the Federal Law “On Protection of Environment” are referred to energy industry  facilities.

Special requirements are aimed to take into account  features of various kinds of energy: thermal, nuclear, water-power engineering.

In the process of designing and construction of thermal electric power stations, highly effective equipment  for   purification of atmospheric emission and discharge of pollutants, use of environmentally safe kinds of fuel and safe disposal of production wastes should be stipulated.

In respect to hydroelectric power stations, other aspects of their influence on environment are emphasized. Real needs of relevant regions in electric power and also features of regional  topography should be considered during the process of siting, designing,  constructing, reconstructing , putting into operation  and operating hydroelectric power stations. In the process of choosing location for the mentioned facilities, measures for preservation of water bodies, water-collecting areas, aquatic biological resources, lands, soils, forests and other vegetation, biological diversity should be stipulated; stable functioning of natural ecological systems, preservation of natural landscapes, specially protected natural areas and nature sanctuaries should be provided. Also, measures for duly wood recycling and fertile soil layer utilization, while clearing and flooding a reservoir bed, and other necessary measures for preventing negative environmental changes and for preserving the hydrological regime which provides optimum conditions for reproduction of water biological resources should be taken.

In the process of siting, designing, construction, putting into operationing and operation of nuclear power stations, protection of the environment from radiation influence should be provided;  the established procedure and normative standards of technological process, the requirements of federal state supervision bodies in the field of radiation safety maintenance should be fulfilled. Measures for maintaining full radiation safety of environment and the population should be implemented according to both the legislation of the Russian Federation and the consistently applied principles and provisions of international law.  Nuclear power stations siting is carried out if there is an environmental seal of approval issued by government agencies in regard to projects and other  substantiating materials,  confirming ecological and radiation safety of nuclear installations. Nuclear stations siting projects should contain the solutions providing their safe  closing.

Additional environmental requirements for facilities of electric power industry are contained in the legislation on specially protected natural areas. Siting and operating energy sector facilities in specially protected natural areas is prohibited or limited. For example, according to the Land Code of the Russian Federation, construction of electricity transmission lines, construction and operation of industrial facilities not connected with licensed activities are prohibited on specially protected natural areas of federal significance. Within the limits of territories of national parks, the environmental  protection legislation imposes a ban on construction of electricity transmission lines and also on the activity entailing changes of a hydrological regime. Especially such prohibition concerns natural reserve areas  where any activity contravening tasks of the state natural reserve area and the  regime of protected and special-use areas is prohibited, and admissible kinds of activity are determined directly by the Federal Law “On Specially Protected Natural Areas” dated 14 March 1995, No. 33-FZ.

In the central ecological zone of the Baikal nature area, it is prohibited to generate, gather and distribute electricity if   power installation capacity is above 100 МW; to supply electric power beyond the scope of the central ecological zone; to generate energy at nuclear power stations[1].

Statutory acts of the nature resources legislation also contain direct environmental requirements as to  power facilities with these requirements focusing on protection of specified natural resources.

According to the Water Code of the Russian Federation dated 3 June 2006, No. 74-FZ, the use of bodies of water for the purposes of electric power generation is carried out in compliance with requirements of rational use and protection of bodies of water. Water-users operating hydropower constructions are obliged to provide a regime of reservoir drawdown and storage with account of the  priority of purposes of drinking and public water supply. Protection of water bodies during their use for the purposes of electric power generation includes: a) duty of the water-users to observe a temperature regime of water bodies when using water bodies to satisfy operating needs of thermal engineering and nuclear-power engineering; b) duty to use water bodies for electric power generation by hydropower facilities, with account of observance of requirements to the use and protection of water bodies, to preservation of aquatic biological resources and other items of fauna and flora, requirements to prevent a negative influence of waters and eliminate its consequences.

General terms of forest utilization for construction and operation of water storage facilities, hydraulic engineering installations,  construction, reconstruction, operation of electricity transmission lines are determined by the Forest Code of the Russian Federation dated 04 December 2006, No. 200-FZ. In the process of forest use for the purposes of construction, reconstruction and operation of electricity transmission lines[2], it is prohibited to damage forest vegetation,  plant cover and soil outside the given forest plot and a relevant conservation zone; to litter up adjacent territories with construction and daily waste, logging debris, other kinds of waste; to pollute the given forest plot and territory beyond its limits with chemical and radioactive substances. The persons or entities that carry out forest utilization for the mentioned purposes have to provide: regular clearing of glade, adjacent forest edges, and water streams from littering up with construction, logging, daily and other kinds of waste, from pollution by fast-acting substances. The lands, disturbed or polluted during  utilization of forests for construction, reconstruction and operation of electricity transmission lines, are subject to restoration.

Federal Law dated 24 April 1995 No. 52-FZ “On Fauna” includes a provision about the duty of legal entities and individuals to take measures to prevent disease and dying of wildlife objects while they perform various kinds of work and power line maintenance. Measures ensuring preservation of migration paths of wildlife  and places of their constant concentration must be planned and carried out while siting, engineering and constructing power lines, spillovers and other hydrotechnical structures.

  Requirements to prevent the death of wildlife[3] prohibit narrow clearing undergrowth of trees and  shrubbery vegetation under power lines  during the period of breeding of wild animals, and oblige to get approval of authorized government agencies for changing the water level in water-storage basins during the period of mass migration and breeding of wild animals. To prevent and reduce the risk of dying of birds in the case of their contact or collision with electric wires, power lines and supporting elements must be equipped with  special  bird-saving devices, during planning and construction. To protect wildlife from the influence  of the electromagnetic field, sanitary protection zones are set along the power lines.

2. Energy law contain environmental requirements within the norms directed at other aspects. Just several examples:

According to Federal Law dated 26 March 2003 No. 35-FZ “On Electric-Power Supply Industry”, the safety of electric-power supply industry is a matter of principles of organization of economic relationships, fundamentals of state policy in energy sector and principles of state regulation and control in electric-power supply industry.

In accordance with the standard of information disclosure, manufacturers of electric power disclose information about the pollution discharge in the atmosphere affecting the environment, and about arrangements made for its reduction[4].

The terms of the tender of investment projects on creating a perspective technological reserve capacity to generate electric power, in part of requirements to a generating enterprise put into production subsequent to the results of the tender, include environmental characteristics of the generating enterprise,  the level of acceptable discharge of pollutants into the environment[5].

The use of energy resources with account of  environmental conditions exists as a principle of legal regulation in the field of energy saving and energy efficiency improvement   (Federal Law dated 23 November 2009 No. 261-FZ “On Energy Saving and Energy Efficiency Improvement  and on Amendments to some Legal Acts of the Russian Federation”).

3. Electric-power supply facilities are governed by the requirements of law, regulating increasingly dangerous activities. Federal Law dated 21 July 1997, No. 116-FZ “On Industrial Safety of Dangerous Production Facilities” relates dangerous industrial facilities to the sphere of its regulation, defining them according to various criteria. For example, enterprises where inflammable explosives are made, used, manufactured, created, stored, transported, liquidated, are considered to be dangerous objectsusing devices which can work under high pressure. Among measures of industry safety are: registration of dangerous industrial enterprises in the state register; requirement to be ready for  localization and liquidation of consequences of  industrial accidents; licensing of some activities; evaluating industrial safety; declaring industrial safety; compulsory insurance of liability for causing harm while exploiting the dangerous facility.

Hydroelectric power stations are regulated by the Federal Law dated 21 July 1997 No. 117-FZ “On Safety of water Engineering Enterprises” containing several similar instruments of state regulation.

According to Federal Law dated 21 November 1995 No. 170-FZ “On the Use of Atomic Energy”, the decision about location and the construction of the nuclear plant and radiation source is taken after considering the following: the existence of necessary conditions for the location that satisfy  norms and rules in the field of the use of atomic energy; absence of danger to the safety of the nuclear plant and radiation source from the structures located nearby; potential social and economic consequences of siting of the atomic energy enterprises.

4. Some environmental protection requirements to energy objects are included into legal acts of sanitary legislation. Essential restrictions for activity of electric power enterprises contain the regime of sanitary protective and protective zones. A sanitary protective zone is a special territory with a specific regime of use, the size of which guarantees the reduction of the influence of  pollution on the atmosphere (chemical, biological, physical) to the standards of hygienic regulations. Sanitary rules set hygienic requirements as to the size of sanitary protective zones, relying on sanitary classification of factories, buildings and other objects, requirements as to their arrangement and redevelopment[6]. The siting of residential property  in sanitary protective zones is prohibited. A sanitary protective zone is similar  to a sanitary reserve, settled for the line objects. For example, the sanitary reserve is set toprotect people from the influence of electric field on the territory along  a high voltage power line, where the voltage is more than 1 kb/m.

In populated localities, exploitation of electric power facilitiesmust be handled in accordance with town-planning regulations of specific territory zones (industrial zones, zones of engineering and transport infrastructure), set by municipal rules of land use and development as part of territorial zoning.

5. Technical requirements include rules of engineering and exploitation of energy objects. Here are several cases. With heat -generating power plant, measures must be taken to prevent or reduce the effect on environment of air emission of pollutants  and waste discharge into water, to reduce  noise , vibration, and other harmful effects and also to decrease water consumption from natural resources[7]. Heat-generating plants which generate toxic wastes must ensure their timely utilization, deactivation or the possibility of burial ground disposal in a special purpose area. Storage or burial ground disposal on the territory of a factory using heat-generating equipment is not allowed.

Technological equipment at  hydroelectric facilities and electric  power stations is designed and put together so that it does not produce unacceptable effect on human beings and environment. The project of environment protection includes a full list of potential sources of effect exerted by technological equipment and by systems of hydroelectric complex, with these sources classified  according to the method of influence on environment and method of preventing  or restricting such effect. Engineering decisions about environment protection are made on the basis of evaluation of the effect produced by  technological equipment on the environment in the area of location of a hydroelectric complex[8].

In designing alternating-current substations, constructive technological  decisions take into consideration measures for reducing electric field intensity to accepted values (application of screening device, groundbed for objects located in electric field, the choice of appropriate height of installing the equipment)[9].

The choice of overhead power transmission lines is made on the basis of comparing competitive options. The facts which are taken into consideration are: natural peculiarities of the territory; the state of the environment (air pollution, aggressivity of soil  and ground waters, etc.); nature protection value of a territory; the potential harm to the environment and possible changes in the environment as a result of constructing an overhead power transmission line and consequences of these changes[10].

In exploitation of electricity-generating equipment[11], measures must be taken to prevent or reduce the effect on environment of air emission of pollutants and discharge  into water,  reduction of noise , vibration, electrical and magnetic fields and other harmful physical effects and to decrease water consumption from natural resources. A consumer exploiting oil-filled equipment must plan measures to prevent accidental emissions into the environment. The exploitation of  electricity-generating equipment  without devices satisfying environmental requirements, or with defective devices , is not allowed.

6. Environmental protection in electric-power supply industry is exercised by the corporate local level of regulation, which is quite well developed, as we can figure out from its quality and quantity characteristics and from its comparison with other fields of economics. For systematization of corporate requirements for environmental protection,  electric-power supply industry as a field of business activity can be shown as generating electric power and delivering the  electric power to consumers. Leading and large generating and power supply network companies adopt internal corporate norms in order  to ensure environmental safety of their activity.

Among such norms, an important place belongs to  companies’ standards. For example, in 2010, “FSK UES” OJSC  approved the group of standards on “Environmental Safety of Power Supply Network Enterprises” (“Requirements for Design”; “Requirements for Construction”; “Requirements for Technical Maintenance and Repair”; “Requirements for Reconstruction and Liquidation”).

General provisions containing various aims, goals and plans are found in corporate policy documents, for example, “Environmental policy of Mosenergo OJSC”.

Some of the norms containing environmental protection standards can be found in local acts regulating general questions of company management . For example, the Code of Corporate Management of “RusGidro” OJSC declares  transparency, including disclosure of authentic information about environmental index of activity, as one of the principles of corporate governance.

Specific environmental protection measures and their technological methods are contained in the Concept of Technical Policy and Development of the generating companies of “Gazprom Energoholding” OJSC.On a voluntary basis, companies may apply environmental protection standards of some normative acts adopted earlier by RAO “UES of Russia”.

Apparently, the legal regulatory support of ecological safety in electric power industry represents an extensive body of rules contained in several branches of the Russian legislation and accordingly found in various statutory acts (such as federal laws, Decrees of the President of the Russian Federation, the Orders of the Russian Federation Government, acts of federal executive bodies) and also in documents of companies working in electric power industry.

The author believes that a decisive factor of efficiency of ecological legislation applicable to the electric power industry is modification of currently prevailing nature-and energy-intensive development models in the Russian economy because considerable reduction of negative ecological consequences of such development only through improvement of legal means is hardly possible. Meanwhile, all shared problems of environmental protection which complicate the problem of limiting man-induced impact on environment are inherent in electric power industry. Accordingly, improvement of regulation of electric power industry by rules of environmental law can occur and is occuring in the context of general trends of the Russian environmental legislation.

Then, improvement of effectiveness of environmental law regulation includes development of  instruments which economically motivate economic entities to reduce negative influence on environment in the exercise of activities related to use of natural resources, emissions, pollutants discharge, waste disposal. Such instruments are interrelated with the system of setting standards of negative influences, which is commonly used  for the environmental protection. Essential modifications encouraging business to upgrade technical and technological aspects of production and implying reduction in environmental pollution in the long run are associated with adoption of the Federal draft law “On Introduction of Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Relating to Improvement of Standardization with Regard to Environmental Protection and Introduction of Economic Measures Motivating Economic Entities to Implement the Best Technologies ” (approved by the Russian Federation State Duma  in the first reading on October, 7, 2011) that is being discussed now.



[1] Postanovleniie Pravitel'stva Rossiiskoii Federatsii “Ob utverzhdenii perechnia vidov deiatel'nosti, zapreshchennykh v tsentral'noii ekologicheskoi’ zone Baykal'skoi’ prirodnoi’ territorii” No. 643 [Decree of the Russian Federation Government “On the Approval of the List of Activities Prohibited in the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Natural Area” No. 643]. August 30, 2001 (in Russian).

[2]  Rules of Forest Utilization for Construction, Reconstruction, Operation of Infrastructure Facilities. Approved by the Order [Prikaz] of the RF Federal Forestry Agency dated  June 10, 2011, No. 223 (in Russian). In particular, infrastructure facilities are understood as electricity transmission lines, with the installations being their integral technological part.

[3] Requirements to Prevent Death of Wildlife During Work Performance and Exploitation of Translines, Pipe Lines, Communication and Electric Power Lines. Approved by Government Deсree [Postanovlenie Pravitel’stva] of the Russian Federation on August 13, 1996,  No. 997 (in Russian).

[4] Postanovlenie Pravitel’stva Rossiiskoii Federatsii “Ob utverzhdenii standartov raskrytiia informatsii sub"yektami optovogo i roznichnogo rynka electroenergii” No. 24 [Government Deсree of the Russian Federation “On Adopting Standards of Information Disclosure by Subjects of Wholesale and Retail Market of Electric Power” No. 24]. January 21, 2004 (in Russian).

[5] Postanovlenie Pravitel’stva Rossiiskoii Federatsii “Ob organizatsii tendera investitsionnykh proyektov sozdaniia perspektivnykh tekhnologicheskikh rezervnykh moshchnostei’ dlia proizvodstva elektroenergii i o vnesenii izmenenii’ v nekotorye zakonodatel'nye akty Rossiiskoii Federatsii” No. 269 [Government Deсree of the Russian Federation “On Arranging Tender of Investment Projects on Creating Perspective Technological Reserve Capacity to Generate Power and on the Amendments to Some Legal Acts of the Russian Federation” No. 269]. April, 21, 2010 (in Russian).

 [6] Sanitary Regulations and Standards 2.2.1/2.1.1.1200-03 “Sanitary Protection Zones and Sanitary Classification of Factories, Buildings and Other Objects” (in Russian). Approved by the Senior State Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation, September 25, 2007, No. 74.

[7] Rules of Technical Exploitation of Heat-Generating Equipment (in Russian). Approved by the Order [Prikaz] of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation dated  March 24, 2003, No. 115.

[8] Recommendations on  Design of the  Technological Part of Hydroelectric Power Stations and Pump-Storage Plants (in Russian). Approved by the Order [Prikaz] of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation dated   June 30, 2003, No. 285.

[9] Recommendations on  Technological Design of Alternating-Current Substation with the Highest Voltage of  35 – 750 kv (in Russian). Approved by the Order [Prikaz] of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation dated  June 30, 2003, No. 288.

[10] Recommendations on  Technological Design of Power Lines with the Voltage of 35 kv and Higher (in Russian). Approved by the Order [Prikaz] of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation dated   June 30, 2003, No. 284.

[11] Rules of Technical Exploitation of Electricity-Generating Equipment  of Consumers (in Russian). Approved by the Order [Prikaz] of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation dated  January 13, 2003, No. 6.