Commissioner assures ecology will come first for controversial gas pipeline

  • 2005-12-07
  • From wire reports
RIGA - European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs met with the chief of Russia's Gazprom and Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas AG and Wintershall to ensure that all the necessary ecological studies would be carried out before the companies begin building a gas pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea.

"They have pledged to meet environmental requirements, and that is an important promise," Piebalgs said after the meeting.

Representatives of the consortium visited the European Commission last week to inform of their plans of lay the pipeline, which caused tremendous indignation in Poland and the Baltic states.

The agreement on the gas pipeline project was signed in Berlin in September by Russian and German leaders. But many experts claim the project could cause serious ecological damage if builders "stumble on" chemical weapons that have been lying on the Baltic seabed since World War II.

Baltic leaders are claiming the pipeline will threaten gas supply to their countries. They have even gone so far as to say that the agreement is an example of Europe's inability to form a common energy policy vis-a-vis Russia.

Russia's plans are to supply natural gas to Germany and Great Britain through the new pipeline, so it considers this to be the optimal route for the pipeline.

The European Commission has no authority to influence the location of the future gas pipeline.

The consortium explained to Piebalgs, who is Latvian, that the route had been chosen for economic reasons, and not as a punitive measure against a country or countries.

Latvia would be interested in building a branch to the pipeline with gas storage in Dobele, south Latvia. However, the consortium rejected the proposal as unprofitable.

Piebalgs said that the visit made the project more transparent and filled the information gap.