Monthly Archives: August 2006

06ASTANA82, ENVIRONMENT MINISTER DENIES THREATS, NOT PROBLEM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ASTANA82 2006-08-29 10:53 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO3829
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAST #0082/01 2411053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291053Z AUG 06
FM USOFFICE ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0177
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ASTANA 0183
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ALMATY 0158
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000082 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: SENV ECON ENRG EPET KZ
SUBJECT: ENVIRONMENT MINISTER DENIES THREATS, NOT PROBLEM 
 
REF: ALMATY 2273 
 
ASTANA 00000082  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: In an August 25 meeting with ESTH officer, 
Minister of Environmental Protection Nurlan Iskakov claimed that 
Tenghizchevroil has committed "systematic" environmental 
violations.  He denied, however, that he raised the possibility 
of revoking Tenghizchevroil's license for violations of 
environmental laws, despite media reports to the contrary. 
Iskakov stated that his Ministry has no right to cancel or 
withdraw contracts, and he blamed the opposition media for 
manipulating his statements.  He does not wish to hamper 
investment in the energy sector, he added.  But Iskakov said 
that this desire must be counterbalanced with the need to 
modernize environmental protection standards as part of 
Kazakhstan's larger effort to become one of the fifty most 
developed countries in the world.  End summary. 
 
MINISTER ISKAKOV REFUTES STATEMENTS 
 
2. (U) ESTH officer called a working level contact at the 
Ministry of Environmental Protection to request a meeting to 
discuss recent media reports that Minister Nurlan Iskakov had 
threatened to revoke Tenghizchevroil's license for violations of 
environmental laws.  A day later, the contact informed ESTH 
officer that Iskakov himself would lead the meeting. 
 
3. (SBU)  At the August 25 meeting, Iskakov strongly denied ever 
threatening to revoke Tenghizchevroil's license.  Only the 
Ministry of Energy can take such action, he said.  The Ministry 
of Environmental Protection is able to make its recommendations 
to the Ministry of Energy, but it does not intend to call for 
drastic measures such as license revocation.  Iskakov blamed the 
opposition media for misrepresenting his statements, accusing 
them of turning every government success into a failure.  He 
said that he makes every effort not to hamper investment, and he 
specifically asked that this message "be passed on to 
Washington." 
 
4. (SBU) Although ESTH officer made clear that he sought only to 
gather information on the scope of Kazakhstan's environmental 
concerns and not to advocate for Tenghizchevroil, Isakov offered 
a number of statistics to demonstrate that Kazakhstani energy 
companies have been subject to far more penalties than have 
multinationals.  He also said that he has received no orders or 
instructions to single out Tenghizchevroil. 
 
BUT EXPRESSES CONCERNS 
 
5. (SBU) Iskakov admitted, however, that he remains troubled by 
Tenghizchevroil's environmental record.  He called 
Tenghizchevroil's environmental violations systematic.  His 
greatest concern, he said, is the accumulation of sulfur at the 
Tenghiz site.  According to Iskakov, ten millon tons of sulphur 
have already accumulated at the site. 
 
6. (U)  On August 25, Tenghizchevroil released a statement in 
which it denied environmental violations and noted that it has 
invested $1 billion in environmental protection measures in its 
eight years of working in Kazakhstan.  Tenghizchevroil's General 
Director Todd Levy told Econoff in June that the key issue being 
negotiated between Tenghizchevroil and the authorities is the 
rate at which they will shrink the stockpile. (Reftel) Chevron 
has declined Embassy offers to raise this issue with the 
Kazakhstanis. 
 
7. (SBU) Iskakov reiterated that his Minstry can only highlight 
the issue of pollution, but that it is for the Minstry of Energy 
and the Presidential Administration to take measures.  If the 
violations continue, Iskakov may recommend a tightening of the 
provisions of the Tenghiz contract.  When asked about the 
substance of such recommendations, he offered no specifics. 
 
MODERNIZING THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT 
 
8. (U) Minister Iskakov emphasized on several occasions the 
importance of Kazakhstan's goal to become one of the fifty most 
developed countries in the world.  He reported that President 
Nazarbayev has thus specifically instructed him to ensure that 
Kazakhstan's environmental regulations meet international 
standards. 
 
9. (U) As a result, said Iskakov, Kazakhstan does not wish to 
act punitively but does demand that the industries adopt the 
same procedures used in Western countries, with the same level 
of technology and the same environmental protections. 
 
10. (SBU) Comment: Minister Isakov's decision to meet personally 
with ESTH demonstrates his strong desire to quickly clarify or 
refute inflammatory statements he made regarding 
Tenghizchevroil. But while he may have overstepped his bounds, 
 
ASTANA 00000082  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
he clearly remains convinced that serious environmental problems 
exist in Kazakhstan as a result of energy development.  Given 
that President Nazarbayev has explicitly tasked him with 
strengthening Kazakhstan's environmental standards
, his concerns 
will have some weight.  End comment. 
 
11. (SBU) Bio note:  Minister of Environmental Protection 
Iskakov has traveled to the United States and spoke warmly both 
of the country and of its environmental protection standards. 
His young Vice Minister, Alzhan Braliev, studied at Harvard and 
participated actively in ESTH's meeting with Minister Iskakov. 
Both men gave the impression that they would welcome heightened 
cooperation with the U.S. 
ORDWAY

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