TALLINN - The Estonian government decided at its Dec. 6 cabinet meeting not to satisfy the application from Nord Stream to conduct marine studies in the Estonian offshore economic zone, reports Postimees Online. The government therefore has decided to agree to the proposal from the Foreign Ministry to not issue the research permit, based on the economic zone law.
The law stipulates that the research can be rejected if the research yields information about the volume of Estonian natural resources in the zone, and on the possibilities of their usage, or when the research plan prescribes drilling at the continental shelf, using explosives, throwing harmful substances into the sea or endangers preserving natural resources in any other way.
The decision to reject the application for studies in the Estonian waters won’t affect Estonian-Russian relations, says Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, reports Public Broadcasting. “I cannot see such a connection here, Nord Stream is clearly a business project,” Paet told ETV’s evening news.
Paet explained that the Nord Stream team has not included just Russian companies, but that there are companies from several West European states involved in it too. “It is an international consortium and includes not only Russian shareholders, or representation of a Russian company,” Paet said.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said that the government’s decision to reject the Nord Stream application was unanimous. The worry is that during the studies, the foreign-owned company could gain information about Estonian natural resources.
Nord Stream submitted to the Foreign Ministry an application to study the Estonian economic zone on Aug. 22 of this year. The deadline for responding to the application is Dec. 22, 2012.
In late October a meeting of the Estonian Nature Foundation (ENF) and representatives of Nord Stream took place in Tallinn in connection with the intention of the latter to build more gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea. At the meeting, Nord Stream representatives could not answer several important questions about the effects of the existing and planned gas pipelines on the environment of the Baltic Sea, ENF said.
“The state of the Baltic Sea is critical and additional endangering of it is not acceptable,” ENF sea environment and nature protection expert Alex Lotman said. He added that Nord Stream has not been able to show, despite the environmental studies conducted so far, how much pollution and dangerous chemicals are really released into the Baltic Sea from the sediments in the bottom of the sea. “We did not reach that answer this time either,” said Lotman.
ENF is of the position that building new gas pipelines contradicts the need to curb global climate problems, for which consumption of fossil fuels has to be reduced.
Nature protectors consider it necessary, that in case a Nord Stream research permit is issued for the Estonian waters, implementation of the studies has to be entrusted to Estonian scientists and academic institutions involved in marine studies, those who have the best possible information about the Estonian seas.
At the end of the meeting, where several other environmental organizations besides ENF participated, it was agreed that Nord Stream would look for answers to the questions ENF raised and consultations between the environmental organizations and Nord Stream would continue.
The Estonian Defense Ministry sent a letter in mid-October to Foreign Minister Paet in which Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu recommended giving a firm ‘no’ to the request from Nord Stream to conduct studies in Estonia’s economic waters.
Nord Stream wants to conduct the studies to build two more pipelines transporting gas from Russia to Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Reinsalu says that thorough analyses by the Defense Ministry indicate that Nord Stream’s “scientific marine studies and potential installation, usage and maintenance of the gas pipeline carry different security risks.” Thus Reinsalu recommended the firm ‘no.’
Nord Stream has already placed two gas pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Before doing so, Nord Steam asked in 2007 for permission to conduct studies of the bottom of the sea too, but the Estonian government turned it down then as well.