TALLINN - Baltic opposition to the Nord Stream pipeline has strengthened, with a coalition of nations preparing to mount a challenge to the Russian-German gas project.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have drafted a formal statement of opposition in which they demand the investigation of an overland alternative pipeline route.
Economic affairs ministers from the four Baltic nations intend to present the statement to the European Commission, although recent upheavals within the Latvian cabinet have delayed their plans.
Juhan Parts, Estonia's economic affairs minister, said an overland pipeline route would be more economically and environmentally sensible, yet had not been investigated.
"We feel this would be a preferable option," Parts said through a spokesman.
The move follows the Estonian government's rejection of an application by Nord Stream to conduct a feasibility study in its marine territory.
In the statement, the nations offer to prepare their own feasibility study of a land-based pipeline running from Russia to Germany through Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
In addition to environmental concerns, the nations said the pipeline could distort market conditions and delay the creation of a single energy market in Europe.
Although not contained in the statement, the Baltic nations have also expressed concern about the possibility of Russian ships patrolling the pipeline.
However, the European Commission has already signaled its reluctance to become involved in the pipeline dispute. A spokesman from the office of the European Union energy commissioner told the Baltic News Service that Brussels would "not interfere in the discussion over the track of a new pipeline," and said it was "for the consortium to decide."
News of the Baltic challenge was quickly followed by the release of a statement from several Estonian marine researchers who believe that dredging the pipeline route would release clouds of sediment into the Gulf of Finland that could destroy marine life.
Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has been pushing the message of an overland route during recent public engagements.
"The mainland option has been completely left aside, and so the main message of this petition is that in the case of such an important project all the alternatives need to be considered if we speak about saving the environment, taking into account the fact that the Baltic Sea is a particularly sensitive marine area," Paet told local media.
During a working visit to Azerbaijan on Oct. 29 he said Estonia would also support the construction of an overland oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Baltic Sea.
"Weâ€¦ consider it necessary to diversify the energy supplies to Europe," he said.