Projects of a pipeline to China need improvement
On December 4, chief of the State Ecological Expertise Department Amirkhan Amirkhanov said that projects for the construction of a Russia – China pipeline suggested by the Russian oil companies Yukos and Transneft were sent back for improvement. This is explained by the fact that the construction of the pipeline is designed on protected Siberian territories. For Yukos, this decision means lots of problems, starting with delays of the project, and it is not ruled out that the Chinese partner may go back on its word under these conditions.
Baikal in the pipeline’s way
Just recently Yukos triumphantly declared that the realization of its key project, the construction of an Angarsk – Datsin oil pipeline at a cost of 1.7 billion dollars, would start in the middle of the next year. Substantiation of the project’s investment was submitted to the RF State Construction Committee in autumn, and soon after, Yukos submitted legislation “On construction and exploitation of the Russia-China oil pipeline” for consideration of the government. It was an open secret that ecologists strongly objected to the construction of the pipeline from the very beginning, but none of the observers considered it to be a serious problem at all.
Norms of Russian legislation barred the project’s realization. Deputy chairman of the ecological organization “Buryat Regional Baikal Association,” Vladimir Belogolovov says that the substantiation of the project’s investment provided by Yukos won’t undergo the state ecological examination until the results of a public expertise held by local scientists and non-governmental organizations are taken into consideration. These are the organizations that demanded that the project be sent back for for improvement.
The problem is that the designed oil pipeline cross ecological sanctuaries. Yukos suggested three variants of the pipeline’s route; two of them are to cross the Tunkinsky national park in the Russian republic of Buryatia, which is protected by federal law. The third route, the so-called eastern route, runs just 20 kilometers from the Baikal Lake, within the limits of the Baikal drainage territory. If the third route is chosen, oil will reach the lake in 30 minutes if and accident occurs on the pipeline.
If it is decided to construct the pipeline across the Tunkinsky Park, a part of its territory will have to be withdrawn from under jurisdiction of the federal law to the “transport land” category. And this is the reason why public organizations strongly object to the construction of the pipeline. The “Buryat Regional Baikal Association” is going to try to persuade Yukos to consider one more route of the oil pipeline that would bypass Baikal, turning it round from the north. If ecologists are successful with the new route, the construction of the pipeline will increase by 50% at least.
Russia’s Yukos oil company had to face the resistance of ecologists and the local press in connection with construction of the pipeline last year, but the situation aggravated especially within the past two weeks. At the end of November, the FSB of Russia searched the office of the public environmental organization “Baikal Ecological Wave” in the Russian city of Irkutsk. The search was held to find a map with marked centers of radioactive contamination. As journalists were informed, the map contained state secrets.
Although the FSB is going to bring charges not against ecologists, but against the state-run company SosnovGEOS, which made the map, the ecologists immediately organized a press conference in Moscow to declare that the search was organized by Yukos. Press secretary of the Russian oil company Alexander Shadrin said that the company had no connection with the incident and declared the accusations of Yukos’ connection with the search in Irkutsk as contradicting reality.
The “Baikal Ecological Wave” organization is taking the most radical position concerning Yukos. President of the company Jennifer Satton told RusEnergy that the “construction of the pipeline is a short-sighted decision. None of the suggested route variants are preferable, and all of them threaten nature and infringe upon the interests of the local population.”
It was “Baikal Ecological Wave” that requested the RF Ministry of Nature to suspend the project. The request was substantiated with the fact that obligatory public hearings on the project were held not in all parts of the region, but only in the city of Angarsk, where Yukos owns a petrochemical enterprise, which consequently guarantees the company some definite instruments of influence.
“We stress that the hearings are not held with a view to get “pros” and “cons.” After employment of different machinations, Yukos got approval of the project from the local population after the alleged sociological research,” commented coordinator of “Baikal Ecological Wave”, Viktor Kuznetsov. “The hearings are held to listen to people’s opinions concerning some problems that are not covered in the project and reflect the local peculiarities. What is especially important, the hearings are held in order to register the requests of the population, which will be further taken into consideration or soundly rejected.” Hearings of this kind were scheduled for November 27 in the city of Usolye-Sibirsky; ecologists say that the search organized by the FSB in the Irkutsk office was designed to frustrate the hearings.
Yaroslava Zabello RusEnergy
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://science.pravda.ru/science/2002/6/20/55/3972_Ukos.html
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