Energy law amendments promulgated

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Parliament speaker Ināra Mūrniece (National Alliance), acting on behalf of the Latvian president recuperating in hospital after a heart surgery, on Monday signed the amendments to the Energy Law and sent them for publication in the official newspaper, Latvijas Vēstnesis, reported LETA newswire via the the parliament’s press service.

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis in a telephone conversation with Mūrniece earlier on Monday told her he was not going to return the legislative amendments for revision in the parliament, and asked her as the acting President to promulgate them.

Mūrniece stressed the amendments were a major step towards strengthening Latvia’s energy independence.

Under the amendments, liberalization of the Latvian natural gas market will begin and the gas distribution operations will be separated from the transmission and storage infrastructure, said Mūrniece.

But most importantly it will strengthen security in Latvia and the Baltics, reducing energy dependence on Russia and terminating the monopoly of Latvijas Gāze natural gas utility, the parliament speaker said.

The amendments to the Energy Law will be published in Latvijas Vēstnesis on February 23.

Previously the utility had sent a letter to the president, asking him not to promulgate the amendments to the Energy Law that would liberalize the gas market and break up the gas company. Latvijas Gāze said it had asked the Latvian president to send the bill back to the parliament for revision because it believed that several of the amendments passed by the Latvian parliament on February 11 week were unconstitutional and contradictory to the Latvian government's obligations to the natural gas company and its shareholders. 

The Latvian parliament on February 11 passed amendments to the Energy Law in the final reading to support liberalization of the gas market and rules on breaking up Latvijas Gāze.

Under the legislative amendments, Latvijas Gāze has to be split up in two companies – one for operating the gas transmission and storage system and the other for dealing with natural gas distribution and sale – by April 3, 2017.

The process of separating the natural gas transmission and storage operator from Latvijas Gāze should be completed by December 31, 2017. That means that the operator will be a company whose owners will not be affiliated with Latvijas Gāze or its shareholders in any way.

Latvijas Gāze CEO Aigars Kalvītis said earlier that the timetable for breaking up Latvijas Gāze was unreasonable and the company might complain to both the Latvian Constitutional Court and the arbitration court in Stockholm.

Russia's Gazprom owns 34 percent of Latvijas Gāze shares, Marguerite Fund has 28.97 percent, Uniper Ruhrgas International GmbH 18.26 percent, Itera Latvija 16 percent, and minority shareholders own 2.8 percent of Latvijas Gāze shares.

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