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International Update Volume 45, Issue 9

RUSSIA BANS DRIFT NET FISHING

Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin approved legislation that will ban drift net fishing off of Russia's eastern coast. Environmentalists have long opposed the practice for its unsustainability and massive amounts of bycatch. The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2016, will align Russia with most of the international community. The U.N. adopted a resolution calling for all countries to ban drift net fishing back in 1991. However, Russia's law has strained relations with Japan, which operates 35 drift net fishing vessels in Russian waters, compared to the 16 that are Russian flagged.

BRITIAN REMOVES TAX EXEMPTION FOR RENEWABLES

United Kingdom

British Chancellor George Osborne announced that the government would terminate tax exemptions under the Climate Change Levy for renewable energy use beginning August 1, 2015. Since 2001, industrial users of energy derived from renewable sources have not paid taxes on that electricity. Osborne called the exemption "outdated" and claimed U.K. citizens were subsidizing too much foreign energy production.

AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES MASSIVE COAL MINE IN NEW SOUTH WALES

Australia

Australia's federal Department of Environment gave its approval for Chinese mining firm Shenhua's Watermark coal mine in New South Wales' Liverpool Plains. The approval means the mine will likely get all government permits necessary for mining to commence, but politicians and local residents opposed to the mine's development have vowed to continue fighting to halt the project. The Liverpool Plains region is one of Australia's most agriculturally productive, which has farmers concerned about the effects mining may have on the region's aquifers.

COAL-FIRED PLANT EMISSIONS LEAD TO LEGAL PROBLEMS FOR UK

United Kingdom

The European Commission announced it will take legal action against the United Kingdom for violating emission limits for nitrogen dioxide (NOx) at a coal-fired power plant in Wales. The Aberthaw plant, located in the Vale of Glamorgan, is permitted to emit over twice the NOx allowed under the EU's large combustion plant directive. That directive was passed seven years ago and is scheduled to be replaced by even stricter standards in 2016. The Commission believes it would be impossible for Aberthaw to meet the new standard, and expressed impatience over the UK's transition plan.

DRC CONSIDERS BORDER CHANGES FOR FAMED VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK

DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo has announced that it will consider revising the boundaries of Virunga National Park in an effort to accommodate oil exploration in the area. The government announced the possible change following the voluntary halting of exploratory activities within the park by Soco International last year. The British company ceased operations in Virunga after completing seismic surveys, the results of which will be turned over to DRC officials. Changes to the borders would have to be approved by UNESCO, as the park was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994.

CHILEAN COURT RULES FOR GOLD MINE IN GLACIER PROTECTION SUIT

Chile

Chile's Environmental Court ruled in favor of the Barrick Gold Corporation on March 23 in a case emblematic of the country's political debate over glacier protection. Local farmers and environmental organizations claimed the company's Pascua-Lama gold and silver mining project is harming three glaciers and their associated watersheds. The Santiago court determined that Barrick has not harmed glaciers within its "area of influence." The Pascua-Lama project has been on hold ever since low gold prices and political and regulatory hurdles sidelined it in October of 2013.