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Russian government approves bill on oil slick prevention

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The Russian government has approved a bill designed to make companies responsible for preventing oil slicks and dealing with their consequences, the environment minister said on Wednesday.

The Russian government has approved a bill designed to make companies responsible for preventing oil slicks and dealing with their consequences, the environment minister said on Wednesday.

"This bill came in the aftermath of serious accidents that have recently occurred during shelf development operations, including in the Gulf of Mexico," said Yury Trutnev, the minister for natural resources and the environment.

The move to toughen the law, which will now go to the parliament, follows the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in April 2010 when 5 million barrels of oil gushed from an undersea well belonging to British oil major BP. It took $40 billion and five months to stop the spill, which caused enormous environmental and economic damage.

Under the new bill, an oil company developing offshore deposits will have to provide financial resources, including insurance, bank guarantees or reserve funds, and material equipment to demonstrate that it can prevent or deal with possible oil slicks, the minister said.

The companies will also have to fully compensate for damages, including aquatic bioresources and third parties.

BP has been looking to join Russian projects on the energy-rich Arctic shelf and signed a deal with state-controlled oil company Rosneft in January. The agreement fell through due to opposition from BP's longstanding partners in Russia.

Trutnev said the new bill would make shelf development the responsibility of the companies. "It will now become the headache and responsibility of the companies, which will be regulated by the government," he said.

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