Nord Stream scrutinised for environment safety

Environmental impact checks are being carried out on the Nord Stream pipeline that’s to be laid along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The pipe will be an alternative route to take Russian gas to European consumers.

Connecting Russia to a German port, Nord Stream promises a steady supply of Russian gas to Europe by-passing Ukraine and Poland. It's also cheaper to build and maintain than an overland route Sweden and Estonia have been pushing for.

To get Finns on their side, Nord Stream is campaigning on the move. A flashy truck has arrived in the port of Kotka to address some of the local environmental concerns.

Nord Stream spent over 100 million euros on environmental impact studies – presented in a 2,000 page report. It says the outline route avoids sensitive areas as well as historic wrecks on the seabed. They also commit to clearing the waters of mines leftover from WW2.

“We have intensive discussions with fishermen all around the Baltic Sea – and in the end if Europe has a secure energy supply, that is of course in the interests of everybody. That’s also in the interest of fishermen as this type of energy is being transported in the most environment-friendly way,” explains Sebastian Sass, Nord Stream permit manager.

Nord Stream is trying to get the local authorities on their side. A facility located in Kotka is ready to start coating the giant steel tubes before shipping them offshore. And the port’s deputy mayor is positive about the project: “First, this brings jobs for 150 people for several years”, he says.

Nord Stream is due to start deliveries in 2011. Following the rows with Ukraine and the interruption of supplies to Europe, Russia is keen to speed up the process. But there is still plenty of red tape to sail through.

While the pipe will be laid through much of the international waters,Nord Stream still needs permits from five countries bordering the Baltic Sea to start the construction. While Finnish authorities remain pipeline friendly, convincing Sweden, Poland and Estonia is Nord Stream’s next and biggest challenge.