Have governments been duped to turn a blind eye to pipeline damage?
The Nordstream 2 saga has been mainly an economic and legal battle, failing to ignite the public’s worries. Who is going to get excited about whether a proposed pipeline complies with the EU’s third energy package or bothers far-off governments in Warsaw or Kiev? As Neville Chamberlain infamously said of Czechoslovakia before it was devoured by Nazi Germany, “these are far away countries about which we know little.”
However, last week we highlighted (http://fairenergy.eu/nordstreams-environmental-problems/) that the smoking gun in this controversy may be bigger even than the geopolitics of Russia’s cold peace. We revealed that the necessary environmental assessment, without which governments cannot give permission for pipeline construction looked like not much more than a tick box exercise. The idea that Germany, Finland, Demark and Sweden might be just paying lip service to a legal requirement raised some serious concerns about the impact of not only Nordstream 2 but also Nordstream 1.
Since then the plot has thickened. These environmental assessments are all based on a technical survey meant to measure the route of major construction projects before they begin. Last week in Foreign Policy it was revealed that all governments affected by the project and the consortium behind Nord Stream 2 are now relying on an assessment conducted by a scientific consultancy called the Ramboll Group. Ramboll happily dismisses all environmental concerns about Nordstream. Which is not surprising since Gazprom itself bankrolled the Ramboll Group’s environmental assessment.
In fairness, it is common practice for developers to fund environmental assessments, and for government bodies to review them and reach their own conclusions — but only for their own national territory. Which means Gazprom is the only party in the Nordstream project that has commissioned an assessment for the whole length of the pipeline .
What is more troubling is that Nord Stream 2 only released the Ramboll assessment in April, and is giving governments and nongovernmental organizations just until next month to provide feedback before the Russians give the green light to the project. As we said last week that’s not enough time for affected governments to undertake a full study or critical review of the 765-page report, let alone examine their own national impact assessments. To add insult to injury, although regulatory bodies in Sweden and Finland have yet to approve permits for the project, work on Nordstream 2 has already begun.
So far, experts have picked holes in the Ramboll report saying it is “based on either falsified, incomplete, or simply ignored scientific data”. It claims the route selected is the best one to minimize environmental damage. Even though it will run through a Russian nature reserve and other sensitive areas.
Environmental experts say that if Finland, Sweden, and Denmark move forward with the project they could be wilfully upending international environmental conventions. “The Nordic countries do not want to politicize the permitting procedure, but when they are faced with evidence that environmental conventions are being trampled on, they will have to consider this,” said Sijbren de Jong of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.
Fair Energy will provide an umbrella for all concerned parties to challenge the environmental assessment lottery that Nordstream 2 is playing. It cannot be right that, simply to smooth German-Russian relations, a pipeline that is not needed can ride roughshod over the legitimate security, diversity and sustainability norms that the EU is meant to uphold.