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The Good and Bad of Russia’s Environmental Policies

PutinRussian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is allowing a paper mill to resume dumping waste in Lake Baikal, when he signed a decree that removed waste discharges in the production of pulp, paper and cardboard from a list of operations banned by environmental legislation around the world’s largest body of fresh water, reports the Wall Street Journal.

This means the OAO Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill will restart operations that it halted in October 2008 after environmental authorities instructed the company to install a closed-loop waste-treatment system, which would prevent discharges into the lake, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Instead, the company said it would be unprofitable to install the system, and permanently shut down the plant in February and began laying off its 2,000 employees, according to the article.

Putin, after personally inspecting Lake Baikal last year, said that scientists told him the mill does not harm the lake, reports Reuters. Greenpeace said it would ask President Dmitry Medvedev to overturn Putin’s decision, according to the article.

While the decree was welcomed by workers, it has angered Russia’s environmental activists, reports the Wall Street Journal. Environmentalists said the mill’s discharge threatens hundreds of species of wildlife, including a rare type of freshwater seal, according to the article.

Some economists say Mr. Putin’s focus on saving jobs has delayed the restructuring of inefficient Russian companies hurt by the economic crisis, reports the Wall Street Journal.

However, Putin is supporting the plan of Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov, to start mass production of electric cars, as part of Russia’s plan to modernize its commodity-based economy, which was hit hard by the global economic crisis, and to achieve growth in technology sectors, reports Reuters, in a separate article.

The target price for the pure electric vehicle is 8,800 euros, reports Reuters

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