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News|07 May, 2009

Nord Stream assessment seriously underestimates environmental consequences for the Baltic Sea

Snowy owl framed by natural gas pipeline in Alaska.
Snowy owl framed by natural gas pipeline in Alaska.

In a submission to national authorities around the Baltic Sea today, WWF calls the latest Nord Stream environmental impact assessment inadequate as it does not live up to established standards. WWF points at gaps and missing information and claims that Nord Stream is seriously underestimating environmental impacts.

“The impact assessment does not take the standard approach to include worst case scenarios, but relies on assumptions that can only be qualified as wild guesses”, says Jochen Lamp, Head of the Baltic Sea Project Office of WWF Germany. “This leads to drastically false assumptions and some of the findings are clearly unjustified.”

WWF comments on a 4000 page long report that has been delivered by Nord Stream to national authorities of the neighbouring countries. The comments highlight the lack of researched alternatives to a pipeline on the sea floor and list several areas where data are insufficient or not adequately reflecting reality.

“Many of the impacts are likely to be considerably more severe than stated” says Jochen Lamp, WWF. “Much of the assessment must be thoroughly revised, and it will be inevitable to drastically elevate someof the predicted impacts to more acute levels.”

WWF finds some of the biggest problems within the following areas:

  • Undersea munitions – mine sweeping may cause serious damage to marine mammals and fish;
  • Sea bed interventions – the amount of impacts can still not be estimated due to lack of data. Severe impacts on currents and biodiversity cannot be ruled out;
  • Natura 2000 sites and other protected areas – impacts are not sufficiently described and effects seriously underestimated;
  • Eutrophication – emissions of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are alarmingly high and those of harmful substances like cadmium, aluminium and dioxins are not sufficiently assessed.
  • The alternative land route through Eastern European countries was not assessed at all.
  • Descriptions of mitigation actions, compensation measures and monitoring programs are vaguely and inadequately described.

Given these issues, WWF therefore urges all contracting parties to the ESPOO convention, and particularly all Baltic Sea affected countries, to demand that Nordstream revise, update and complete their EIA with all of the necessary data (currently missing)in order to assure that informed decisions can be made regarding this project.

“Given what we already know about the fragile state of the Baltic Sea environment, moving forward with this project in the absence of clear answers to all of the issues raised in WWF’s position statement could be of serious consequence to the environment of the Baltic Sea.” Says Pauli Merriman, Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

BACKGROUND

Nord Stream is a planned natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany with two 1,200 km long parallel pipes projected to be laid on the Baltic Sea floor between Russian Viborg and Lubmin in Germany.

The pipeline will pass through the Exclusive Economic Zones and/or Territorial Waters of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

If built, it will be the largest single installation in the Baltic Sea.

The Nord Stream construction is subject to an environmental impact assessment in accordance with the Espoo Convention. The Convention requires that an impact assessment be carried out for an activity planned by one country, which is likely to have a significant environmental impact within an area under the jurisdiction of another country. It specifies what has to be considered at an early stage of planning and it also lays down the obligation of countries to notify and consult each other and the public on all major projects that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across borders.

WWF has prepared a detailed response to Nord Stream’s submission to the Espoo Convention listing the primary areas where WWF believes the Nord Stream EIA is insufficient.

For more information, please contact:

Jochen Lamp, Head of Baltic Sea Project Office, WWF Germany
Tel. +49 38 31 297 018 Email. lamp@wwf.de

Pauli Meriman, Director, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme
Tel. +46 767 886 185 Email. pauli.merriman@wwf.se

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Snowy owl framed by natural gas pipeline in Alaska.

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