HELSINKI Finland insists the Nord Stream
consortium conduct a thorough environmental impact study of an
alternative, southern route for its planned gas pipeline under
the Baltic Sea, the environment ministry said on Monday.
Nord Stream, majority owned by Russian gas export monopoly
Gazprom, plans to start building the 1,200 km (750 mile) long
gas pipeline from Russia to Germany in mid-2009 and begin
deliveries in early 2011.
While the consortium aims to route the link through the
Finnish economic zone of the Baltic Sea, environmentalists have
been campaigning for it to consider the more southern route,
saying the sea bed is flatter and would need less work and
therefore less disruption to waste littered on the sea bed.
In comments sent to authorities in Denmark, Germany, Russia
and Sweden, the ministry said: "This (a broader study of the
alternatives) would ensure that sufficient material on the
environmental impacts is available for decision-making and that
the environment is taken into account."
The ministry said Nord Stream had told it in December that
it did not plan to carry out an environmental impact assessment
for the southern route, which goes around the Russian island of
The consortium has already said environmental demands from
countries around the Baltic Sea, some of which have doubts
about the project, could push up the costs of the scheme.
"We will take all feedback into consideration," Nord Stream
spokesman Sebastian Sass told Reuters, adding the firm had
examined the southern route but had not found a suitable
passage for the pipeline.
Russia is planning a conservation area near Gogland and
there already are subsea cables there, while it is a main route
for ships and therefore unsuitable, Nord Stream says.
The Nord Stream consortium, apart from Russian gas export
monopoly Gazprom, which owns 51 percent, involves German firms
BASF and E.ON, with 20 percent each, and Dutch pipeline
operator Gasunie with 9 percent.
Two pipelines are planned, each with annual capacity of
27.5 billion cubic meters, one starting up in 2011 and one in
Nord Stream is expected to be able to cover more than a
quarter of Europe's incremental gas demand.
(Reporting by Terhi Kinnunen, editing by Anthony Barker)