Russian pipeline under threat
The Finnish Government has blasted Nord Stream 2 saying that it incurs risks which could damage the Baltic Sea habitat and also human health.
This is a severe setback to the proposed Russian gas pipeline since, under EU law, Finland would have to disallow the project where it is found to adversely affect the integrity of the environment.
The Finnish Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment has found that the pipeline would cause significant direct and indirect harm human health, biodiversity, especially conserved species and habitats (i.e. Natura 2000 sites), land, soil, water, air and climate because:
- noise during construction has significant effects particularly on marine mammal sites designated as protected areas (Natura 2000 sites);
- munition clearance, sediment disturbance and pipe-laying works can cause release of harmful substances, as well as adverse effects on seabirds and underwater habitats;
- damage may be caused by sea and land transport used for pipeline construction;
- the project may have adverse effects on fisheries industry and may limit the future use of the Finnish EEZ. An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind;
- the project is contrary to the international climate targets and contradicts the policy on renewable energy development.
- Finland’s marine planning has become one of the key questions for the protection of the Gulf of Finland. It follows that the project will become an additional burden for Finland.
According to Article 6(3) of Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive), ‘any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site and likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site’s conservation objectives’. It is expressly stated in this Article that the permitting authorities ‘shall agree to the plan or project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned and, if appropriate, after having obtained the opinion of the general public’ (Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive.
The Finnish Government has underlined that environmental interests are critical for the granting pipeline consent. No imperative overriding public interests would justify the project development (an option open to an EU Member State under Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive) given that Nord Stream 2 is not a necessary gas infrastructure and its function is being performed by existing infrastructure facilities (the Ukrainian gas transmission system).