A few weeks ago, Russia’s northern port of Murmansk, which spends much of the year swathed in a choking coal haze from its commercial port, was given relief by a concerned phone call from a grade-schooler.
During a trip to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad last week, President Vladimir Putin singled out the city as the crown jewel of his new campaign against a controversial and environmentally disastrous coal mining and loading practices.
“I want to touch on a very sensitive theme,” Putin said. “In the port of Murmansk and other sea ports where they engage in open pit coal mining, ecological problems are becoming sharper, by which I mean the high concentrations of coal dust in the air.”
While he conceded it would be “decades” before Russia abandoned open pit mining for good, he promised to “introduce new progressive technologies for loading on the strictest ecological norms and standards.”
It was music to the ears of Murmansk residents who have for years spent the long winters trudging through anthracite snow and wiping the coal soot spewed by the Murmansk Commercial Port from their windows.
The city and other ports like it have long cried out for federal assistance to roll back higher than permissible levels of coal dust and other mineral by-products polluting their air and water. Local industries responsible for the pollution often find it’s cheaper to pay fines for running afoul of environmental legislation than it is to beef up compliance.
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