Sakhalin pipeline environmental damage estimated at US$70-million
Following the Russian government's recent decision to revoke environmental
certification of the Shell-led Sakhalin-2 project (project operator - Sakhalin
Energy Investment Company (SEIC) belonging to Shell – 55%, Mitsui – 25%,
Mitsubishi – 20%), off Russia's east coast, the Ministry of Natural Resources is
currently conducting an inspection tour of the region to demonstrate damage to
IFAW representatives from Russia, Germany and the UK are taking part in the tour, along with Greenpeace, WWF and local NGOs Sakhalin Environmental Watch and Rodnik (environmental layers). They have been shown damage to the sea bed near the liquefied gas plant at Aniva Bay, as well as destruction of primary forest, river crossings and salmon spawning grounds resulting from the laying of land-based oil and gas pipelines. This was the result of work done by SEIC subcontractors as well as lack of proper control from the company itself, as Sakhalin Energy admitted earlier this year.
IFAW has been campaigning on the Sakhalin issue since 2000 because of concerns about the fate of the last remaining 100 Western Pacific gray whales (WGWs). The major concern for IFAW was the construction of the off-shore pipeline, completed this summer, which is near the only known WGW feeding ground. Another issue is the construction of the Sakhalin Energy’s second oil and gas platform, PA-B, too close to the WGW feeding ground. The oil company ignored the demands of the NGO coalition to move the platform away from the whale feeding ground.
IFAW leads a coalition of NGOs working on the WGW issue, monitoring acoustic levels of construction and drilling work amid fears the high noise levels are already disturbing the whales' feeding pattern. Photo-identification of all the whales has enabled scientists to detect a number of 'skinny' whales – with bone structure becoming unusually visible since construction work began. IFAW will continue monitoring WGWs at their feeding grounds next summer in order to identify threats to the future of this critically endangered species. The international coalition of NGOs has been warning the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (SEIC) for years that the environmental damage and violations of Russian nature protection legislation were unacceptable, and would cause serious problems for SEIC, unless the company undertakes significant mitigation measures and makes the project environmentally safe. SEIC ignored most of the NGO demands.
Masha Vorontsova, Director of IFAW Russia, said: "Despite the recall of Sakhalin-2's Environmental Impact Assessment, and fuel industry rumblings that this is motivated by financial profit, the facts remain that Sakhalin-2 has had and continues to have significant negative impacts on the environment and key wildlife species in the Sakhalin region.
"Regardless of who leads this project from now on, every effort must be made by both the Russian government and the fuel industry to mitigate the environmental impacts of this and any future fuel exploration or production projects."