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MOSCOW, July 9 (Reuters) - The Russian-German gas consortium building the Nord Stream gas pipeline will delay first fuel deliveries by a few months to late 2011 due to new ecological studies requested by the states involved.
“We are not giving an exact month but it will start in the second half of 2011. The slight adjustment is due to the fact that countries involved are raising new requests,” Nord Stream spokeswoman Irina Vasiliyeva said on Wednesday.
European Union lawmakers demanded on Tuesday a full assessment of potential environmental damage from Nord Stream, which will pump Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany.
The 7.4 billion euro ($11.63 billion) pipeline, which will eventually ship 55 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe annually, had been initially due to start in 2010 but last year adjusted the deadline to early 2011.
“For us a specific month is not crucial. For us it is the year which is crucial. It is important for us to start supplies in 2011. We are not planning to move the dates any further,” Vasiliyeva added.
Brussels has already identified the pipeline, a joint venture involving Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and Germany’s E.ON EONG.DE and BASF BASF.DE, as a key project to ensure secure gas supplies for Europe.
But it has been criticised in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia, angered at being bypassed by a key gas supply route, as well as in Sweden on environmental grounds.
Nord Stream’s 1,200 km (750 mile) twin pipelines would cut through the economic zones of Finland, Sweden and Denmark, so under international law only their assent is needed for construction.
Nord Stream has already presold the bulk of volumes to consumers in Germany and other European states.
Vasiliyeva said the latest delay should not be a problem.
“Contracts are a question for Gazprom, not us, but I’m sure the contracts are flexible,” she said.
Some reports have said construction could create an ecological disaster if workers disturb Nazi German chemical weapons that have lain on the Baltic Sea bed since World War Two amid 80,000 tonnes of dumped munitions.
In an extreme case, the Commission could ask the European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court, to halt construction if Brussels were to reject completely Nord Stream’s environmental impact assessment. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; editing by James Jukwey)