Russia's national pipeline operator Transneft has submitted its feasibility study for a planned Siberia-to-Pacific crude oil pipeline to the government, vice president Sergei Grigoriev confirmed.
Environmental groups warn that the project could threaten wildlife in Russia's Far East as well as risk spills at Lake Baikal, the world's largest body of fresh water.
The feasibility study had already been approved by almost all regional authorities, but its fate would be decided by the Natural Resources Ministry.
"After the study has been submitted to the government and then sent to the interested ministries and departments, the study must undergo an environmental examination at the Natural Resources Ministry," Grigoriev said.
Earlier this month, Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev promised tough negotiations with Transneft over the route of the planned, 1.6 million barrel-per-day pipeline.
The pipeline is planned to run from the town of Tayshet in Siberia's Irkutsk region to Skovorodino in the Amur region, at one point passing about a half-mile from Lake Baikal, raising fears of a spill in what is a UNESCO-protected site.
From Skovorodino, crude will be piped east to Russia's Pacific Coast, with a possible branch south to China.
The project has raised other environmental concerns, the AP reports.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18