European Parliament committee seeks Nord Stream route change

The Nord Stream pipeline needs to be carefully monitored for its environmental risks, reported members of the European Parliament's petitions committee.

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, June 4 -- The Nord Stream pipeline, planned to bring Russian gas into Europe under the Baltic Sea, needs to be carefully monitored for its environmental risks, reported members of the European Parliament's petitions committee.

The committee's resolution called for other routes to be evaluated because of concerns that the $12 billion pipeline could harm marine ecosystems along the Polish and Lithuanian coastline.

European members of parliament called on the European Council, European Commission, and European Union member states "to use every legal means at their disposal to prevent the construction of the North European gas pipeline (Nord Stream)," on the scale proposed.

Nord Stream is being planned to enable Russia to avoid transit countries such as Poland and Ukraine. Nord Stream AG, the consortium building the pipeline, has already altered the pipeline route once to mitigate concerns of countries along its route. The pipeline will go north, rather than south, of the Danish island of Bornholm and will be further away from nature reserves near the Swedish island of Gotland.

Earlier this year, Nord Stream also dropped plans to build a maintenance service platform off the coast of Sweden following pressure from the Swedish government about the environment and restriction to fishing and navigation lanes.

Extending from Vyborg to the German coast and possibly to the UK, Nord Stream initially will deliver 27.5 billion cu m/year of gas to Europe beginning in 2011. Full capacity of about 55 billion cu m/year will be reached in the second phase, when operation of a planned parallel line starts.

Nord Stream AG, a joint venture of OAO Gazprom 51%, Wintershall AG 20%, E.On Ruhrgas AG 20%, and NV Nederlandse Gasunie 9%, is building the pipeline. Total cost for the offshore project will amount to more than €5 billion, with Gazprom investing an additional €1.3 billion in an onshore section (OGJ, Feb. 18, 2008, p. 46).

The sponsors are carrying out an environmental impact assessment to be submitted later to Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The petitions committee urged the company to make the research data available to all coastal states.

The report warned against Nord Stream majority stakeholder Gazprom from becoming a dominant supplier in the EU "without guaranteeing reciprocal rights for EU companies to enter the Russian energy market."

Parliament members called for the EU's role to be increased and said the consent of all the littoral states was needed to implement the project. It recommended that a new role be created under the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Commission vice-president to oversee the environmental and geopolitical security aspects.

In July, the full 785-seat Parliament will vote on the petition committee's nonbinding resolution.

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