ST. PETERSBURG, February 27 - RAPSI. A regional commercial court will hear on March 22 the environmental watchdog's $17.3 million lawsuit against a LUKOIL-Conoco Phillips joint venture.

Naryanmarneftegaz is a LUKOIL-ConocoPhillips joint venture developing the South-Khylchuyuskoye field in the Nenets Autonomous District. The field was discovered in 1981 with proved reserves estimated at over 500 million barrels.

The Arkhangeslk Commercial Court earlier suspended the proceedings in the case, as a similar lawsuit is underway. Previously, the Federal Service for the Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor) filed a lawsuit against Naryanmarneftegaz for 249.46 million rubles for discharging oil waste in the first quarter of 2008.

However, an appeals court found no legal connection between the two cases as the "subjects of the disputes are different." The court added that the trial court had no reason to suspend the proceedings in the $17.3 million lawsuit.

The environmental service requested the court to oblige the Naryanmarneftegaz joint venture to pay for disposing saline oily waste water generated from hydrocarbon production and oil treatment at the Varandey facility in the first and second quarters of 2007.

In July 2010, Naryanmarneftegaz paid 1.1 million rubles on the assumption that bottom water is a waste product. However, the watchdog claims $17.3 million, arguing that bottom water falls within the fourth hazard class.